The speaker for this recording of Lincoln Portrait is the famous actress, Katherine Hepburn, whose shaky voice (due to age – almost 80 at the time of this recording- and tremors similar to those of Parkinson’s sufferers) made her a rather odd choice, an emphatic contrast to the stronger-voiced performers who have narrated the Portrait such as Henry Fonda, Charlton Heston, James Earl Jones, and dozens more. However, she gets through it quite nicely and her performance is all the more affecting and touching for her disability.
In addition to Hepburn, we get one set of the two-set Old American Songs, well sung by baritone Sherrill Milnes. The Old American Songs in question are folk songs and ballads chosen and assembled by Copland and arranged for singer and orchestra (initially for singer and piano, but later orchestrated). “Long Time Ago” is incredibly beautiful and is my personal favorite among the five songs in the first set. The fourth song, “Simple Gifts,” is the famous Shaker melody utilized by Copland in his famous ballet score, Apalachian Spring.
The balance of the CD sports several lesser-known but excellent Copland pieces for orchestra. These include The Promise of Living from Copland’s opera, The Tender Land and Jubilee Variations, which receives here its premier (and only, to my knowledge) recording. This is a delightful and very easy-to-listen-to disc with less-complex but highly enjoyable Copland music. Scoredaddy
2. Lincoln Portrait (1942) Katherine Hepburn, speaker
3. The Promise of Living from The Tender Land (1954)
4. Old American Songs, Set 1: The Boatmen's Dance, The Dodger, Long Time Ago, Simple Gifts, I Bought Me (1950) Sherrill Milnes, baritone
5. Jubilee Variations (1945)
6. Ceremonial Fanfare (1969)
7. An Outdoor Overture (1938)
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel
Recorded in Music Hall, Cincinnati Ohio USA on September 22, 1985 and September 15-16, 1986