Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of Erich Kunzel, turns in a nice set of performances of a group of Copland’s more “populist” compositions (pieces composed in his less challenging, tonal style). The Lincoln Portrait is the featured selection on this disc, and is one of Copland’s best-known and most widely performed and recorded compositions. For those unfamiliar with Copland’s musical tribute to the 16th president of the United States, the piece is a three part composition for standard orchestra and solo speaker. The speaker recites text selected by Copland from Abraham Lincoln’s letters and speeches, supported by Copland’s original music, which includes the interpolation and free use of two popular tunes of Lincoln’s time.

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

1. John Henry: A Railroad Ballad for Orchestra (1940)
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


Scoredaddy said...


losiher said...

Thanks for sharing.
I can help you in your post with some contributions: chamber music, the opera The Second Hurricane ...
Have a nice day.

Scoredaddy said...

thanks you Losiher: I have The Second Hurricane and will be posting it here soon. Which CD of chamber music do you have?

losiher said...

I can upload a double CD "The Chamber Music of Aaron Copland" ( Music from the Copland House - Arabesque Recordings), "Rarities and masterpieces" (Harmonie Ensemble - Bridge Records) and "Complete Works for violin and piano" (Posnak & Zazofsky - Naxos).
I am looking for some Copland works, but I think there are no recordings: "What do we plant?", "Into the streets May First", "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (Choral), "Vocalise-Étude", "Dirge in Woods" (vocal), "The world of Nick Adams", "Five Kings" (Incidental Music) and other rarities for orchestra or piano. Do you know about them?
Thank you very much again.


Scoresdecine said...

Many thanks (from Spain) for this great recording. Copland is a genius!

Anonymous said...

Scoredaddy, Do you have the other Copland album "Copland, The Music Of America" by the Cincinnati Pops ?