Portraits of Freedom is a CD featuring works by Aaron Copland and Roy Harris which have a special emphasis on democracy. Not just a "hack" American music CD, features include the very well known to some virtually unknown compositions making this a welcome addition to the Copland/Harris recorded music oeuvre.
Fanfare for the Common Man brings nothing new, but it is such a great miniature. Less recorded is the Lincoln Portrait. Copland opens with a slow triumphant fanfare melody which gives way to a faster "Camptown Races" melody and brilliantly weaves the two together. The piece ends with a dramatic reading by James Earl Jones.
Canticle of Freedom, rarely heard, features chorus. The music and text are interesting enough to wonder why it has been neglected. Along with the Outdoor Overture, Copland uses not only uses his trademark rhythms and harmonies, but dissonance is judiciously placed to give his music an American experience.
Roy Harris' American Creed and When Johnny Comes Marching Home are also rarely heard, nonetheless recorded. Harris' music is a bit more ponderous than that of Copland, and while Harris sticks with more classical formal designs, it is interesting to note the many harmonic and orchestration similarities which exist between the two composers. Harris' energetic "When Johnny..." is also very interesting, especially when compared to the more famous American Salute by Morton Gould.
The liner notes are voluminous accounts into the background of Copland. You really get the gist of how close he was to music and patriotism and how that evolved throughout the 20th Century. The Seattle Symphony plays well on this disk; you can tell they have a real feel of the music. While you can find better recordings of Fanfare and the Outdoor Overture, you can't beat this Lincoln Portrait, and you probably won't find the other works anywhere else, especially so well performed. Copland was serious about music and democracy and it shows in these works; the lesser known ones are greatly eclipsed by his more famous works, and so you probably have to be a Copland junkie to buy this CD. In that case, this will be an easy buy for you!