Lincoln Portrait (also known as A Lincoln Portrait) is a classical orchestral work written by the American composer Aaron Copland. The work involves a full orchestra, with particular emphasis on the brass section at climactic moments. The work is narrated with the reading of excerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great documents, including the Gettysburg Address.
A 23 second sample of Lincoln Portrait demonstrating the narration of Lincoln's documents along with the prominence of brass instruments for dramatic emphasis.
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Copland was asked to write a musical portrait of an "eminent American" by the conductor Andre Kostelanetz. Copland used material from speeches and letters of Lincoln and quoted original folk songs of the period, including "Camptown Races" and "Springfield Mountain". Copland finished Lincoln Portrait in April 1942.
Together with some descriptive comments on Lincoln ("Abe Lincoln was a quiet and a melancholy man"), the work contains the following excerpts from his speeches:
Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. (Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862)
The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country. (Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862)
It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says 'you toil and work and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle." (Lincoln-Douglas debates, October 15, 1858)
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. (Unknown, though in Lincoln's Collected Works)
That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth. (Gettysburg Address)
Lincoln Portrait is scored for a speaker and an orchestra:
- 2 flutes (doubling 2 piccolos)
- 2 oboes
- English horn (optional)
- 2 clarinets in B-flat
- bass clarinet
- 2 bassoons
- contrabassoon (optional)
- 4 horns
- 3 trumpets in B-flat (two required; one optional)
- 3 trombones
- snare drum
- bass drum
- sleigh bells
- celesta (optional)
Famous narrators of Lincoln Portrait have included:
- Neil Armstrong, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel, both times at Riverbend Music Center (1984 and 2009)
- Marian Anderson, Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa and Aaron Copland, both times at Saratoga Springs (1966 and 1977)
- Alec Baldwin, Philadelphia Orchestra 2009
- Richard Butler (Governor of Tasmania), Sydney Symphony Orchestra
- President Bill Clinton with the Arkansas Symphony, conducted by David Itkin. March 2003; recorded March 2003.
Judy Collins from the album "Portrait of an Amrican Girl" (2005)
- Aaron Copland, National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. 14 November 1980 - 80th Birthday concert
- Peter Coyote, Symphony Napa Valley, 29 March 2015.
- Walter Cronkite, U.S. Air Force Symphony Orchestra
- Clifton Davis, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fabio Mechetti, at Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts Florida, USA, 2009
- Richard DeVos, Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by David Lockington. 2000.
- Melvyn Douglas, Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. Recorded by RCA Victor 7 February 1946.
- Hugh Downs at the age of 91 with the Phoenix Symphony, conducted by Michael Christie, for the Centennial Celebration of the State of Arizona, February 2012
- Sergeant Major Michael R. Dudley, Boston Pops Orchestra, Memorial Day, 2000, and The United States Army Band (Pershing's Own) Washington,DC, April 16, 2004
- Julius Erving, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1991
- Frankie Faison, Montclair State University Orchestra, Spring 2000
- Henry Fonda, London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Aaron Copland, at Walthamstow London, 1968
- Danny Glover, Appleton West High School Wind Ensemble, Fox Cities PAC, December 2002
- The Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes, Boston Symphony Orchestra, July 2009
- Vice President Al Gore, New York Philharmonic
- Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire, Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Adam Stern
- Tom Hanks, U.S. Armed Forces Symphony, at the We Are One celebration, 18 January 2009
- Katharine Hepburn, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel (1988 Grammy Award nominee)
- Charlton Heston, Utah Symphony Orchestra
- Samuel L. Jackson, Orchestra of St. Luke's conducted by James Levine
- James Earl Jones has performed the piece several times, including with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in February 2009, as well as with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (David Itkin, conductor), February 1999.
- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Symphony by the Sea, at the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming, 29 July 2006
- Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec, United States Ambassador to Malta, July 4, 2010 Celebration of our "common humanity" and "self evident truth," Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta, Malta.
- George McGovern, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, October 2012 in his last public appearance before his death
- Walter Mondale, Minnesota Orchestra
- Robert A. Muh, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, conducted by Keith Lockhart, 4 June 2009
- Paul Newman, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
- President Barack Obama, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Gregory Peck, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
- Vincent Price, Yale Symphony Orchestra, Leif Bjaland conductor
- Esther Rolle
- Mario Ruffini, Philadelphia All City Orchestra conducted by Dan Liuzzi, Florence, Piazza della Signoria, Loggia dei Lanzi, 27 giugno 2015 / World premiere in the Italian version / FOG-Festival Orchestre Giovanili
- Carl Sandburg, New York Philharmonic, conducted by Andre Kostelanetz, 1959. Sandburg's narration won a Grammy Award in 1960.
- Norman Schwarzkopf, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
- Willie Stargell
- Adlai Stevenson, Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy (and recorded by Columbia Records)
- James Taylor with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by John Williams
- Margaret Thatcher, London Symphony Orchestra
- Gore Vidal, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, at Hollywood Bowl, 2 August 2007
- William Warfield, several orchestras and conductors. Warfield's narration won a Grammy Award in 1984.
- L. Douglas Wilder, with the Virginia Commonwealth University Wind Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Terry Austin
- Frank J. Williams, Rhode Island Philharmonic, February 2009
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The composition was lampooned by Peter Schickele ("P. D. Q. Bach") in his piece Bach Portrait on the album 1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults. Another parody featuring quotes from Dan Quayle appeared on The Dr. Demento Show in the early 1990s.[vague]
Nine minutes of the composition, without narration (from a late 1960s recording by the London Symphony Orchestra), plays during the climactic one-on-one sequence between Jake and Jesus Shuttlesworth (played by Denzel Washington and Ray Allen) in the 1998 Spike Lee film, He Got Game. In the film, Jesus Shuttlesworth is a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.
- "Lincoln Portrait, Boosey & Hawkes catalogue". Boosey.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- Pollack, Howard (2000). Aaron Copland: the life and work of an uncommon man. University of Illinois Press. p. 357.
- "The Philadelphia Orchestra". Philorch.org. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "'LINCOLN PORTRAIT'; Other Voices". The New York Times. August 8, 1993.
- "The Field: Isn't This a Time: Live-Blogging Sunday's Inaugural Concert". Narcosphere.narconews.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "COPLAND, GOULD: Heston [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- May 2001 MusicWeb(UK)". Musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "Portraits Of Freedom: Music of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris: Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, James Earl Jones, Seattle Chora". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "Edward M. Kennedy". Tedkennedy.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "George McGovern no longer responsive". UPI. October 17, 2012.
- "Paul Newman Narrates 'Lincoln Portrait'". NPR. 2005-08-09. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- For Immediate Release: Archived December 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
- N. Paglinauan. "Performance Today - 'A Lincoln Portrait'". NPR. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- Ross, Alex (February 16, 1993). "Classical Music in Review". The New York Times.
- Channing GrayJournal Arts Writer (2009-03-01). "Warmth and soul in R.I. Philharmonic’s ‘history lesson’ | Music | projo.com | The Providence Journal". projo.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- NPR interview and broadcast of Lincoln Portrait—contains the original text for the narration.
- CarlSandburg.net: A Research Website for Sandburg Studies
- Video - Aaron Copland - Lincoln Portrait (12:28).