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Editor's Choice -

Best Of The Month

November 2012  

  

LINCOLN (2012)

Music composed and conducted by John Williams.

Total Playing Time = 58:56

1. THE PEOPLE'S HOUSE (3:42)
2. THE PURPOSE OF THE AMENDMENT (3:07)
3. GETTING OUT THE VOTE (2:48)
4. THE AMERICAN PROCESS (3:56)
5. THE BLUE AND THE GREY (2:59)
6. "WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE" (1:50)
7. CALL TO MUSTER, AND "BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM" (2:17)
8. THE SOUTHERN DELEGATION, AND THE DREAM (4:43)
9. FATHER AND SON (1:42)
10. THE RACE TO THE HOUSE* (2:41)
11. EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW (3:11)
12. FREEDOM'S CALL (6:07)
13. ELEGY (2:34)
14. REMEMBERING WILLIE (1:51)
15. APPOMATTOX, APRIL 9, 1865 (2:36)
16. THE PETERSON HOUSE, AND FINALE (11:00)
17. "WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE" (Piano Solo)(1:32)

* = excerpts arranged and performed by Jim Taylor, traditional:
"They Swung John Brown To A Sour Apple Tree,"
"Three Forks of Hell," "Last of Summer," "Republican Spirit"

 

Album produced by John Williams.

Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus, Duain Wolfe, Chorus Director.
Music Editor: Ramiro Belgardt.
Music Recorded and Mixed by Shawn Murphy.
Additional Recording Editor: Robert Wolff.
Booklet Editing and Design by WLP Ltd.

Sony Classical 88725446852

Rating: ****

 

Like last year's stellar soundtrack for Steven Spielberg's WAR HORSE, which I named for a Sammy Award as Best New Film Score CD, this soundtrack for the eagerly awaited film, LINCOLN, is another winner.

The film, directed by Steven Spielberg with an excellent screenplay by Tony Kushner and based partly on Doris Kearns Goodwin's best-seller, Team of Rivals, has superb acting by Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). He makes the filmgoer feel he is Lincoln and not just an actor. Others who also deserve praise are: Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, David Straithairn as Secretary of State William Seward, as well as the rest of the excellent cast.

As far as the Lincoln film score, some critics have called it"Coplanesque," meaning similar in style and mood to America's greatest classical composer of the 20th century, Aaron Copland, with works like A LINCOLN PORTRAIT, where the trumpet has a major role. I would agree there are similarities but this score for LINCOLN is more Williamsesque. That is, it harkens back to some of his earlier politically themed film scores, like BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, JFK, NIXON, and AMISTAD. And that is appropriate. So, we have music that evokes grandeur, nobility, along with much suffering, and all of it accompanying the background of this superbly made film. The music is like a grand progression of a political life, and not just any life, but what many Americans believe was our greatest U.S. President's life. The film only focuses on Lincoln's last months in 1865.

As befits this film, the score doesn't have a lot of rapid, rip-roaring themes, but there are a few lively tracks. One of them (track 10) has a series of folk-like instrumental fiddle tunes, arranged and performed by Jim Taylor.

There are also a few hints of patriotism, especially in the wonderful Williams arrangement of one of the most popular Civil War songs, "Battle Cry of Freedom" which is not "Traditional" as given in the End Credits of the film but was composed by George Frederick Root (track 7), and sung with great conviction by the Chicago Symphony Chorus, accompanied by a band-like ensemble including military drum accompaniment. There is another Civil War song sung in the film which unfortunately isn't on the soundtrack CD album. It is titled, "We Are Coming Father Abraam, 300, 000 More" and once again it is incorrectly identified as "Traditional" in the film, instead of to America's first great songwriter, Stephen Collins Foster. The song was published in 1862. This was one of his last great songs before he died tragically in his 30's in 1864. I included this Stephen Foster song in my collection, Lincoln and Liberty: Music From Abraham Lincoln's Era.

Much of this score for LINCOLN is subdued and reflective. A good example is track 6, from a famous Lincoln statement, "With Malice Toward None." This is a beautiful theme with deep emotional connection to the nobility of Abraham Lincoln and his suffering over the loss of so many soldiers from both the North and South - over 600,000 in all during the Civil War. This same theme is repeated at the end of the soundtrack CD (track 17) played by a solo piano by Randy Kerber. Among the other memorable tracks are "Freedom's Call" (track 12) and "Elegy" (track 13) with subdued brass and strings.

The longest track is for the death scene of Lincoln, who was taken to The Petersen House after he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington. This track begins with a solo trumpet beginning and moves on with restrained strings and those marvelous horns (which Williams loves to use and does so with the greatest skill). This is essentially a long, grand and noble Eulogy to President Abraham Lincoln and should be heard in concert halls everywhere in the future as it fully deserves to be heard again and again.

Unlike many film soundtrack CDs, all the musicians from the highly accomplished Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are listed in the CD booklet, and they deserve much credit for their superb performance, with a special nod to First Trumpet, Christopher Martin. Also in the booklet is a heartfelt introduction by director Steven Spielberg. After mentioning that he has worked with John Williams for 40 years now, Spielberg writes,

My lens and John's orchestrations linger in quiet support of a man who articulated more powerfully than any other American President and as beautifully as any of our greatest writers what America is, what it means, why it had to go through the crucible of the war.

I would suggest you listen to this Sony Classical release more than once. I have listened to it at least four times and find that each time I hear more of the greatness in this soundtrack.

John Williams at 80 years old continues to amaze me with his brilliance at finding just the right approach to any film he works on, but especially with his 40 year collaborator, Steven Spielberg. For both of these creative masters I think this is one of their greatest wartime film achievements, along with SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and SCHINDLER'S LIST.

When I went to the theater on its opening day in wide release, the theater was full of mostly older adults. At the end, as if they had watched a great play or heard a great concert, the audience applauded loudly. I was too moved to join them, with tears running my cheeks. As a longtime Lincoln researcher, I felt this was like watching the real Abraham Lincoln, accompanied by the sensitive and serene music of John Williams.

LINCOLN is destined to become a film classic as it should and deserves much praise for the sensitivity to the man who had to deal with so many difficulties in his family, the 13th Amendment to end slavery, and the bloody Civil War as well.

This soundtrack by John Williams is another milestone in his illustrious film music career.

I'm pleased to give it my highest recommendation and select it as Best of the Month.

-- Roger Hall, 16 November 2012

 

See also this multi-media collection, titled after Abraham Lincoln's campaign song from 1860, which includes a Lincoln picture gallery, an album with 24 music examples, and a Listener's Guide with lyrics and extensive background notes.

For more information, go to...

"Lincoln and Liberty"



 


 

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