The second in the series of August broadcast concerts by the North Carolina Symphony features two works by American composers, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives. The program airs at 10 p.m. on Monday, August 12.
Copland's Lincoln Portrait
During the Second World War Aaron Copland was asked to write a patriotic work. After first considering Walt Whitman, Copland then settled upon Abraham Lincoln for the work's subject. Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" is for speaker and orchestra, combining a biographic sketch with texts from letters and speeches. It also features melodic nods to popular tunes of the day, such as "Camptown Races" and other popular folk songs. The work was completed and first performed in 1942.
The North Carolina Symphony performed the work in honor of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln' Emancipation Proclamation of 1 January 1863. David Hartman, who is also the host of the North Carolina Symphony broadcast series, is the narrator. The Symphony is lead by its resident conductor, William Henry Curry.
Ives's Second Symphony - A "Hair-Raising" Finish
American composer Charles Ives learned much about music from his father. Charles was born in October 1874 in Danbury, Connecticut. The elder Ives taught his son popular tunes from the age of the Civil War, as well as other music and hymns. In fact, "Camptown Races" and other popular tunes serve as an underpinning of the Symphony No. 2, but are not directly quoted musically as in the "Lincoln Portrait."
"He's a visionary and a Yankee contrarian with a great sense of humor," conductor William Henry Curry tells host David Hartman. These qualities show through in the ending of Ives's Symphony No. 2 in a jarring cluster of notes. This is meant to replicate the sour notes from a barn dance where amateur musicians would intentionally play something "off" at the end of the night to signal the end of the dance. "It was a way of saying good night folks, time to go home now," continued Curry. "Ives caps this symphony with a completely crazy cluster of sounds. It really is hair-raising."
The symphony was premiered in 1951, some fifty years after it was completed, by The New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Some commentators referred to the closing discord as a sort of "Bronx cheer."