Leonard Slatkin / Nashville Symphony

Abraham Lincoln Portraits

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Anyone thinking that the eight Abraham Lincoln pieces offered here exhausted the store of musical representations of the 16th U.S. president will be quickly disabused; they represent a selection from about 90 pieces that were considered. For some composers, the Nashville Symphony and conductor Leonard Slatkin would have had a choice of multiple Lincoln pieces. Nevertheless, the program as it stands now is an attractive one, with two well-known pieces as bookends to a host of unknowns, and several works that are effectively played off against each other. In addition to Copland's familiar Lincoln Portrait, for example, there's Vincent Persichetti's A Lincoln Address, setting the Second Inaugural Address. The work was written for Nixon's corresponding inaugural, but Nixon's agents demanded the excision of certain passages of the text that might have been construed as antiwar (which tells you something!). The work was eventually withdrawn, and other orchestras rushed to perform it in its original version. Nashville actor Barri Scott is an effectively somber narrator here and in the Copland. Other highlights include Harris' chamber setting of the Vachel Lindsay poem "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight," and Ernst Bacon's "Ford's Theatre: A Few Glimpses of Easter Week, 1865." This work was originally written as music to accompany a play, but some of the very specific scenes involved come through in independent performance. There are more resonant performances of the Copland around, but this disc will have relevance for any number of collections. Texts, in English only, are included.

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