Eschenbach Conducts Bruckner

Thursday, July 19, 2012
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A World Premiere with Joshua Bell

Friday, July 6, 2012
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Zimmermann Plays Dvorak

Friday, March 23, 2012
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Maazel's Ring Without Words, in Concert at Carnegie

Sunday, March 4, 2012
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The Vienna Philharmonic visits New York City's Carnegie Hall with conductor Lorin Maazel, with a program that includes Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor and music from Wagner's The Ring. Hear the concert on Saturday, Mar. 10, at 7pm on Classical New England.


Lincoln Portrait: The Twists and Turns of an American Classic

By Bob Seay and James David Jacobs   |   Sunday, February 19, 2012
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Bob Seay of WGBH News and James David Jacobs of Classical New England consider the odd history and captivating power of Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait.

To hear a performance of Lincoln Portrait with the United States Marine Band, conductor Col. Michael J. Colburn, and narrator Brian Stokes Mitchell, click on "Listen" above.

Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Written in 1942, Lincoln Portrait, by Aaron Copland, is a rare musical tribute to an American President. It played an inspirational role when it was written, during the dark, early days of World War II.

But it continued to inspire over the decades, with countless notable narrators giving voice to the words by Abraham Lincoln that Copland chose for his tribute.

Those words, though, were chosen from within a surprising cultural context, as Bob Seay explains:

If Lincoln's words express the highest ideals of American democracy, Copland's music expresses the diversity of sources that have combined to create an American music and culture, as James David Jacobs writes:

Aaron Copland (source: AP)

It’s hard in 2012 to appreciate just how original Copland’s Lincoln Portrait was in 1942. There had been other works that combined spoken text with orchestra, but the combination of serious public statement and serious artistic statement, with ceremony, history, and politics coexisting with music, was, and remains, rare.

The music Copland wrote isn’t mere backdrop for the words, the narrator not even speaking until the piece is about half over. That music tells a story, a story of both an individual life and of a nation. It’s also a story of diverse musical influences, reflecting the diverse musical strands that have come together to create an American music.

The beginning of the work is typical Copland, with woodwinds uttering soft three-note mottoes in intervals of fourths and fifths. That serenity, however, is answered by unsettling chords. It’s not unlike Ives’s The Unanswered Question and its dialogue between a stark, angular statement and its muddled response.

Hear Fred Calland's 1980 interview with Aaron Copland, from NPR.

Comforting, familiar harmonies make a return, culminating in a moment of repose. But then, without any real transition, we’re plunged into a jaunty fantasia of American folk melodies. It’s important to remember that the syncopated rhythms and pentatonic intervals of songs like “Camptown Races” are indebted in no small part to the music of African-Americans, which already in the 19th century was forming the basis of American popular music.

There are also subtle references to the music of Native Americans, engaged in what could be considered Lincoln’s other, less celebrated civil war. The dance-like tone of this section can be considered a sort of analogue to the scherzo in Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, representing both the joys and adventures of the individual heroic figure and the energy and the spirit of the nation and its people.

The strands come together, and the music reverts to the unsettled atmosphere of the work’s beginning. Then, just as we’ve almost forgotten about the speaker, he or she begins to speak.

It’s too important, Copland seems to be saying, to hide behind the cloak of artistic license, of interpretation and ambiguity. No, the meaning of this music must be spelled out, and when we hear the words of Lincoln we know why.

Copland has done us a service by providing a frame in which we can ponder these words, which turn out to be as relevant to today’s struggles as they were in the 1860s. The questions posed by the cultural conflicts illustrated in the differing strands of music are still being asked today.

Lincoln and Copland seem to have some things in common. Both pulled off radical, even revolutionary accomplishments while being regarded as accessible and populist. Both took the ideas of acknowledged radicals and made them palatable for a general audience. Both took their roles in the mainstream as serious, important missions, aimed at bringing wildly divergent philosophical camps together. And both were criticized by those selfsame radicals and branded as sellouts or traitors.

Beyond all that, they occupy similar places in our culture: the historical significance of each has been subject to regular cycles of reassessment, a process that began during each man’s own lifetime. Lincoln Portrait gives us the chance to consider them together, with all the resonance each man’s life and work have for us today.

- James David Jacobs

Tanglewood 2012

Thursday, November 17, 2011
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The Boston Symphony Orchestra's 2012 Tanglewood season is a 75th anniversary celebration of the BSO's summer home.  Special events include a gala event that pays tribute to the notorious "thunderstorm concert" of 1937 that led to the creation of the Koussevitzky Music Shed, a John Williams 80th birthday concert, and nine world premieres.

Tanglewood, founded as the Berkshire Music Center, is integral to the identity and mission of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  During the 75th anniversary season of Tanglewood in 2012, Classical New England will once again bring you live Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts, as well as special features and performances from the Tanglewood Music Center and guest artists.

We'll also be sharing Tanglewood Tales, with stories and photos that paint a picture of Tanglewood's history through the personal experiences of our listeners.
Send us your Tanglewood Tale.

BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe talks about Tanglewood 2012 with Classical New England's Brian McCreath:

Season highlights for 2012 include a BSO opening night on July 6 with conductor Christoph von Dohnányi in a program of the same music the BSO played for the very first opening night in 1937:  Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 and the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies.
A gala celebration concert on July 14 will bring together the BSO, Boston Pops, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and Tanglewood Festival Chorus, with conductors John Williams, Keith Lockhart, and Andris Nelsons.  Guest artists for the evening include violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianists Emanuel Ax and Peter Serkin.
John Williams Tanglewood will celebrate composer and Boston Pops Laureate Conductor John Williams for his 80th birthday during a concert on August 18, with Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero, among others.
Nine composers have been commissioned to write new works for the 75th anniversary of Tanglewood, continuing a BSO tradition of commissions for significant anniversaries.  Among the composers whose works will premiere during the 2012 season are Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, Michael Gandolfi, and André Previn, all musicians with historic and important ties to Tanglewood and the BSO.
Other highlights of the season include the Tanglewood debut of conductor Andris Nelsons, who will participate in the 75th anniversary gala and conduct a program the following day that includes Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Brahms’s Symphony No. 2, and the Tanglewood debut of baritone Gerald Finley, who sings a recital on August 2 and is soloist with the BSO the following night in music by Ravel and Mozart.
  For more details, visit the Boston Symphony Orchestra.


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