52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  


Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Abraham Lincoln Portraits
CD 1
Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Lincoln, the Great Commoner
(c. 1921) [3:39]
Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)
A Lincoln Address
(1973) [13:22]
Roy Harris (1898-1979)
Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight
(1953) [14:10]
Ernst Bacon (1898-1990)
Ford’s Theatre: A Few Glimpses of Easter Week, 1865
(1940) [29:43]
CD 2
Morton Gould (1913-1996)
Lincoln Legend
(1941) [16:36]
George Frederick McKay (1899-1970)
To a Liberator
(A Lincoln Tribute) (1939) [11:18]
Paul Turok (b.1929)
Variations on an American Song: Aspects of Lincoln and Liberty
(1963) [9:18]
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Lincoln Portrait
(1942) [14:31]
Barry Scott (narrator: Persichetti and Copland); Sharon Mabry (mezzo: Harris);
Mary Kathryn Van Osdale (violin: Harris); Anthony LaMarchina (cello: Harris);
Roger Wiesmeyer (piano: Harris); Nashville Symphony Chorus/George Mabry;
Nashville Symphony/Leonard Slatkin
rec. Laura Turner hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville 1 July 2007 (Gould, Turok, Copland), 6 July 2008 (Ives, Persichetti, Bacon, McKay), 27 September 2008 (Harris). Text by Jane Vial Jaffe. DDD
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559373-74 [60:54 + 51:43]
Experience Classicsonline

This set is a tribute, in his bicentennial year, to America’s sixteenth president. The works have been chosen by Leonard Slatkin and Naxos and, varied as it is, the set contains only a small fraction of the musical compositions written about the Great Emancipator. As the program notes point out, the eight works here describe Lincoln the man, his life, his times and perhaps most important, the feelings evoked by Lincoln in the composers and so many others. Since the works in the set were written over most of the first three-quarters of the 20th century, looking at them in chronological context can perhaps tell us most about how Lincoln has appeared to his fellow Americans, both musically and historically.
Ives’ Lincoln, the Great Commoner was originally written as a song, either right before or right after World War I. The choral version is mostly a unison work and quotes fewer folk tunes than we might expect from Ives, but when it develops into dense tone clusters, accompanied by some of the composer’s best orchestration, it becomes an extremely impressive picture of Lincoln’s idealism. The progression to the finale is inexorable and it would not be too much to say that this is the composer’s premier contribution to the choral repertoire, short as it is.
More than forty years later we have a work of Paul Turok, a well-known critic and broadcaster in New York City. He is also known as a composer and has long been interested in American history. His variations area based on a folk tune that was used in Lincoln’s campaign for President in 1860. It is a very simple tune and can be played solely on the white notes of the piano. I found Turok’s piece very enjoyable and an able handling of variation form, though not especially Lincolnesque. Written yet another ten years later and very different in intensity is Persichetti’s A Lincoln Address, which sets the speech Lincoln gave at his Second Inauguration. This is one of the most moving works in the set-the music accompanying the words “…and the war came…” and “…both read the same Bible…” plumbing great depths of feeling. After a central interlude there is a very spare accompaniment to “…with malice towards none…” and a subdued statement of the opening material before the narrator reiterates the word “Peace”. A wonderful work that should be better known.
Four of the eight works in this set date from the years 1939-1942 when the approach of World War II and its coming to America generated many statements of the nation’s values in this terrible time. McKay’s To a Liberator was written in the light of the events of the late thirties and is a compendium of the feelings evoked in the composer by Lincoln. The first section is actually entitled Evocation, and like the beginning of Copland’s work, portrays the Lincoln of destiny, albeit in a more personal manner. A wordless chorus is added for the second section which deals with the common man’s faith in democracy. This is an excellent variation of the opening material, making it almost sound like folk or gospel music. The third section, a March, and the fourth, titled Declaration, continue the musical and philosophical threads of what has come before. The Epilogue returns to the opening material, but very quietly and in a ruminative vein, not at all what one would expect. I think it safe to say that this is the most substantial of McKay’s works to appear since Naxos started recording them.
Throughout his career Morton Gould moved back and forth between serious works and more populist ones, almost like an American Arthur Benjamin. Lincoln Legend definitely lives up to the seriousness of the times (1941). Gould takes a different approach towards his subject than McKay, fashioning various patriotic and folk material associated with the Civil War into a symphonic poem that while portraying that past conflict ends with questioning emotions about the conflict to come. Gould’s always piquant orchestration and sense of construction use the well-known material to produce a wide range of emotions - a work that is truly more than the sum of the parts.
Yet another approach is taken by Ernst Bacon in Ford’s Theatre: a Few Glimpses of Easter Week, 1865. This work was originally incidental music to a play about Lincoln by Paul Horgan, which Bacon later orchestrated. In its twelve numbers it covers a very wide range of emotions, from pathos to cynicism to the final tragedy. It has always been one of Bacon’s best-known works and is very welcome here as its last incarnation was a Desto LP from about fifty years ago that was unlistenable even then. It is a wonderful introduction to an unjustly neglected composer. Last of the four 1939-1942 pieces is Copland’s ubiquitous Lincoln Portrait, a work so well-known as to need no description.
The Roy Harris work in this set falls into a separate category from the others for a variety of reasons. It requires a piano trio accompaniment as opposed an orchestral one and a vocal soloist rather than a chorus. It was not written to strengthen the nation’s resolve or meditate on the greatness of Lincoln as were many of the others. Rather it is an angry work, asking what Lincoln would have thought of the continuance of war and prejudice almost a century after he had died to end such things. What is more, it cannot be looked at in comparison to the other works in the set as it can in the context of all the pieces the composer wrote throughout his career dealing with Lincoln. In style it is an eerie work, with the ghost of the President walking back and forth pondering the continuance of evil in the world. Harris’s use of open chords and a recurring descending passage for the soloist add both the atmosphere and the musical momentum. Especially impressive is the setting of the last paragraph the poem which increases the sense of lamentation.
Aside from the fine quality of the music, the most notable feature of this set is the fine quality of the sound in the new Laura Turner Hall, the new home of the Nashville Symphony. The hall has a wonderful acoustic and the Naxos engineers make the most of it. The orchestra itself mostly lives up to their new surroundings, although there is some cluttered playing in the Persichetti and the Gould. The chorus does well with the difficult Ives piece. As for the instrumental soloists in the Harris work they definitely understand Harris, although one could ask for a little more verve in their playing. The mezzo-soprano Sharon Mabry is excellent at getting to the drama of text and music, especially in her wordless singing in the first three minutes of the Harris work. My one complaint is with the narrator Barry Scott, who appears in the Persichetti and Copland works. In the former he is totally convincing, without a shred of false emotion. But in the Lincoln Portrait he does what so many others have done: he acts. Copland himself cautioned “against undue emphasis in the delivery of Lincoln’s words …they no added ‘emotion’…” As for Leonard Slatkin he not only delivers forceful leadership of each work, but shows himself capable of treating each one completely on its own terms.
Since only the Copland and Ives works are presently available on CD, this set is a must for collectors of American music, aside from patriotic associations. The Harris and the Persichetti works alone make it an essential purchase.
William Kreindler
see also reviews by Rob Barnett and John Sheppard

Naxos American Classics page


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.