Lincoln Portrait

From Wind Repertory Project
Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland (trans. Walter Beeler)

General Info

Year: 1942 / 1951
Duration: c. 13:30
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.
Cost: Score and Parts - $115.00   |   Score Only - $15.50


Full Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium I-II
String Bass (optional)
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bongos
  • Congas
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tenor Drum
  • Triangle
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone



In parts:

  • E-flat Alto Saxophone II. m.57, beat 4: D sharps should read B naturals
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone II. m.156, beat 2: dotted quarter + sixteenth note should read two eighth notes
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone II. m.160, beat 2: dotted quarter + sixteenth note should read two eighth notes
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone II. m.260: add 3/2 meter signature

Program Notes

Lincoln Portrait was commissioned by Andre Kostelanetz for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in early 1942. Copland initially chose Walt Whitman as his subject, but picked Lincoln instead when Kostelanetz suggested a historical government figure. For the narration, which occurs only in the Portrait's third and final section, Copland used Lincoln's words, adding his own brief descriptions of the former president. Copland's score is not a literal exposition of Lincoln's pronouncements, but an extraordinarily skilled way of applying and combining free-sounding music with specific prose meanings. It is as moving and significant as the words Lincoln wrote.

Characteristic of Copland's populist and patriotic music, Lincoln Portrait quotes traditional popular tunes: Springfield Mountain and Stephen Foster's Camptown Races.

The composition is divided roughly into three main sections. In the opening, Copland hoped to suggest something of a mysterious sense of fatality that surrounds Lincoln's personality, transitioning to suggestions of his gentleness and simplicity of spirit. Brief sketches, in the quick middle section, relate to the times in which Lincoln lived. The conclusion draws a simple but impressive frame about the words of Lincoln himself.

- Program Note from San Luis Obispo Wind Orchestra concert program, 12 May 2012

Soon after the United States entered World War II, conductor André Kostelanetz approached three American composers with the suggestion that each write a musical portrait of an eminent American who expressed the “magnificent spirit of our country.” The proposal resulted in Virgil Thomson’s The Mayor LaGuardia Waltzes, Jerome Kern’s Portrait for Orchestra of Mark Twain, and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait (for speaker and orchestra). The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra premiered the latter on May 14, 1942, with Kostelanetz conducting and William Adams reading the famous words of Abraham Lincoln. The work was subsequently arranged for band, and both versions have become patriotic favorites, with performances featuring such notable narrators as Walter Cronkite, Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Vincent Price, James Earl Jones, William Warfield, and Barack Obama.

Regarding his score, Copland writes:

I worked with musical materials of my own, with the exception of two songs of the period: the famous Camptown Races and a ballad known today as Springfield Mountain. In neither case is the treatment a literal one... In the opening section I wanted to suggest something of a mysterious sense of fatality that surrounds Lincoln’s personality. Also, near the end of that section, something of his gentleness and simplicity of spirit. The quick middle section briefly sketches in the background of the times he lived. This merges into the concluding section where my sole purpose was to draw a simple but impressive frame about the words of Lincoln himself.

Program Note by Travis J. Cross for the UCLA Wind Ensemble concert program, 29 April 2015


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)


State Ratings

  • Iowa: V
  • Louisiana: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Wind Orchestra (Jennifer Martin, conductor; Dave Congalton, narrator) – 24 September 2023
  • United States Coast Guard Band (New London, Conn.) (Adam Williamson, conductor; Anthony Nolan, narrator) - 15 January 2023
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony (Kevin Michael Holzman, conductor) - 11 September 2022
  • Berklee College of Music (Boston, Mass.) Symphonic Winds (Dominick Ferrara, conductor; Lawrence J. Simpson, narrator) - 16 December 2021
  • Angelo State University (San Angelo, Tx.) Wind Ensemble (Jonathan Alvis, conductor; Ronnie Hawkins, Jr., narrator) - 2 May 2021
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Wind Ensemble (Scott Teeple, conductor) – 16 February 2020
  • Dallas (Tx.) Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Rex Tillerson, narrator) – 12 November 2019
  • Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tenn.) Wind Symphony (Thomas Verrier, conductor; Betty Zapata, narrator) – 3 November 2019
  • Stuart (Fla.) Community Concert Band (Jim LeBon, conductor) - 27 October 2019
  • Medalist Concert Band (Bloomington, Minn.) (Jerry Luckhardt, conductor; Tom Hegg, narrator) – 19 May 2019
  • University of Wyoming (Laramie) Wind Symphony (Bob Belser, conductor; Laurie Nichols) – 11 May 2019
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown) Wind Symphony (Scott C. Tobias, conductor; William Kohler, narrator) – 15 April 2019
  • University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band (Laura Rexroth, conductor; Kalyn Harewood, narrator) – 6 December 2018
  • University of Georgia (Athens) Hodgson Wind Ensemble (Cynthia Johnston Turner, conductor; Allen Crowell, orator) – 16 November 2018
  • Illinois State University (Normal) Symphonic Winds (Anthony Marinello, III, conductor; Francois Battiste, narrator) – 17 October 2018
  • Young Artists Wind Ensemble (Tanglewood, Lennox, Mass.) (H. Robert Reynolds, conductor; Deval Patrick, narrator) - 29 July 2018
  • Kent State (Ohio) Wind Ensemble (Jesse Leyva, conductor) - 4 May 2018
  • Rhode Island (Woonsocket) Wind Ensemble (Robert Franzblau, conductor) - 29 April 2018
  • University of Nebraska (Lincoln) Symphonic Band (Anthony Falcone, conductor; Kabin Thomas, narrator) – 22 April 2018
  • Baylor University (Waco, Tx.) Wind Ensemble) (J. Eric Wilson, conductor) – 21 April 2018

Works for Winds by This Composer