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Composed, Co-Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Co-Conducted by:
Duain Wolfe

Performed by:
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Sony Classical

Release Date:
November 6th, 2012

Also See:
War Horse
Saving Private Ryan
The Patriot
Born on the Fourth of July

Audio Clips:
1. The People's House (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

3. Getting Out the Vote (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

6. "With Malice Toward None" (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

12. Freedom's Call (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award, and an Academy Award.

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Buy it... if the nostalgia factor of hearing John Williams craft yet another masterful Americana score is worth every moment of this highly restrained, respectful expression of instrumental finesse.

Avoid it... if you expect to hear, outside of a few traditional arrangements, any strikingly new material that does not resemble the melodies and orchestrations of several prior Williams' works for this genre.

Lincoln: (John Williams) When director Steven Spielberg learned in 1999 that historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was planning to write a biography entitled "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," he immediately sought to purchase the filming rights to the concept through DreamWorks. In the subsequent decade, the script for Spielberg's Lincoln underwent a tremendous number of rearrangements by several writers; the life the great American president was so expansive in scope that the writers had extreme difficulty narrowing its focus to Spielberg's liking. In its final form, Lincoln concentrates on only the President's final months, and specifically those that dealt with his preoccupation with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery. While the 2012 film has all the makings of one of Spielberg's standard biographical pictures, Lincoln has, in its abundance of critical praise, been described more as a political thriller than a typical "biopic." Compensating for a lack of overt Spielberg cinematic flair is a plethora of tense interpersonal interactions depicting Lincoln's struggles with other powerful political players of the era. A tender secondary line of action dedicated to the man's family is closer to the focus of the director's previous works, though there are undoubtedly comparisons to Amistad that will be made by hardcore movie enthusiasts. Although the studio was initially hesitant about affording Spielberg the money to simply reprise a fiscal dud of the likes of Amistad, the politically poignant concentration of the Lincoln story, as well as Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field's performances, promised an upside that includes possibly significant awards consideration for the project. Among the aspects of the film sure to gain a few nominations is John Williams' score. The maestro came out of several years of retirement for Spielberg's trio of 2011 and 2012 films, proving in these three assignments his continued ability to unquestionably outclass his younger peers in the industry even as he enters his 80's.

Williams continues to laboriously write his scores by hand with pencil and paper at a piano, rejecting modern technologies and still managing to yield music of his established, superior quality. Having worked with Spielberg for 40 years, his involvement with Lincoln represents their 26th collaboration. As with the two projects they shared in 2011, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and War Horse, Lincoln feels like yet another bonus entry in the concluding years of this remarkable relationship, and Williams astonishingly continues to prove his viability as an artist despite his advancing age. Few, if any, of the younger generation of composers worldwide seem capable of capturing the primordial emotional essence of a film (and especially ones dealing with American history) with the same grace and precision. While Lincoln certainly doesn't feature the brilliant hyperactive activity of The Adventures of Tintin or the crowd-pleasing, resoundingly dramatic gravity of War Horse, it is no less successful at its task. The director and composer very specifically sought to utilize the music as a restrained and respectful accompaniment secondary to Day-Lewis' lead performance. While listeners will hear plenty of connections to Williams' prior Americana triumphs in Lincoln, none of them will feature the heroic, chime-banging personality the composer is best known for in the mainstream. The importance of this presidency, as well as the Thirteenth Amendment, is emphasized in solemn fortitude by Williams' tactful application of orchestral weight and melody. The composer studied 19th Century hymns and applied some of these traditional works to his score, and instead of recording the entirety in London or Los Angeles, he opted to employ the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and associated chorus), which whom he had successfully collaborated on other occasions. For longtime Williams collectors, Lincoln will be a pleasure that comes exactly as expected, its restrained, noble, and somber tones exuding all his Americana traditions heard in scores from Born on the Fourth of July to Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, and The Patriot, as well as the maestro's numerous America-related concert pieces.

The rather short score for Lincoln (at least in its presentation on album) is highlighted by extensive solos led by piano with little accompaniment. Trumpet, oboe, and clarinet also take turns defining the melodies, sometimes in duets utilizing starkly harmonic but complimentary tones to denote a historical connection. The rest of the orchestra occasionally weaves in and out of the solos gracefully, and these moments, as always with Williams, are the highlights. The fuller ensemble sequences are not substantial in length or dramatic in weight when compared to Williams' previous efforts. The opening cue, "The People's House," does have the composer's trademark, pulsating whole notes on key to denote gravity, but such usage is rare elsewhere. The most outwardly heroic application of the ensemble comes at the end of "Equality Under the Law" in the form of a string crescendo of noble intent as expected. Tortured violins in "Elegy" rise out of the French horns, which are present frequently to bolster the patriotism factor in Saving Private Ryan fashion. One interlude of electronic dissonance (a standard Williams technique) exists in "The Southern Delegation and the Dream." Likewise, there exists only one significant wordless choral contribution; in the middle of "Appomattox, April 9, 1865," the eeriness of this layer is unmistakable. While more of this kind of mix throughout the score could have greatly enhanced the "mystique" effect, the composer might have considered such an approach to be overkill. On the flip side, two jaunty cues of playfulness break up the listening experience in "Getting Out the Vote" and "The Race to the House" with fiddles, banjo, and spirited percussion. While the latter is comprised of traditional tunes, the former features beefy bass strings in its mix as well, reminding of Far and Away. From an instrumental and vocal standpoint, the most uniquely individual cue is "Call to Muster and Battle Cry of Freedom," opening with snare and flute stereotypes for marching to war and continuing into a vocalized traditional Civil War song for male voices first and then with females. Aside from the opening track on the album, which features the theme and demeanor of Williams' original music for the trailer to Lincoln, the powerhouse cue of the score is "The Peterson House and Finale," which rotates through Williams' themes in 11 minutes of pensive thought, with significant attention provided to each.

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The many themes for Lincoln are long-lined, which means that they can be somewhat difficult to latch onto given their somber, slow performances. Don't expect anyone in the mainstream (or even most film score fans) to walk away humming a specific melody from this one. Of the six major themes, the primary identity previewed in the trailer and anchoring "The People's House" is the most memorable, though don't be surprised if you find yourself most attracted to Williams' theme for the Thirteenth Amendment (and the aspirations behind it). This idea can be heard in "The Purpose of the Amendment," "Freedom's Call," and "The Peterson House and Finale," and its presence is best known due to the composer's anticipatory bass notes during its progressions (reflecting, oddly enough, Jerry Goldsmith's Explorers). Williams' themes for the family, the war, and other concepts bleed into one another without much distinction outside of their shared, muted respect for the topic. On the whole, this score offers absolutely no surprises for the learned Williams listener. It supplements their collections with yet another tender, thoughtful, and pleasantly fluid Americana entry. Some may balk at the fact that there is nothing substantially new (other than the traditional adaptations) to distinguish Lincoln from the rest of Williams' career. Indeed, most of the themes are highly derivative for the composer. Some will love and respect the score simply because it is yet another Williams work, a bonus at this point that brings back fond memories of the 1980's and 1990's, rather than as a transcendent individual score. There is no doubt that Lincoln is at least a solid four-star effort and is worthy of an Oscar nomination, but it may not be frequently visited for more than an occasional, comfortably historical background listening experience. Put together a suite of "The People's House," "Getting Out the Vote," "Appomattox, April 9, 1865," and "The Peterson House and Finale" and you'll have the twenty most essential minutes from the work. That said, the entirety still puts to shame most younger composers' music, especially when you consider the maestro's writing methodology. There is extraordinary, carefully crafted finesse to this material that, while perhaps tired and repetitive in Williams' own body of incredible achievements, remains remarkable to behold in the 2010's. More than anything else, in terms of its purpose, its finished sound, and its relationship to the listener, this score defines the word nostalgia. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,233 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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   A tribute to Copland
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   Re: Where are the rhythms and beats?
  Dawson A -- 3/4/13 (8:23 p.m.)
   The rythms and beats are in the score, igno...
  Richard Kleiner -- 2/28/13 (7:18 p.m.)
   Re: Where are the rhythms and beats?
  Richard Kleiner -- 2/28/13 (7:08 p.m.)
   That opening tune
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 58:46

• 1. The People's House (3:41)
• 2. The Purpose of the Amendment (3:06)
• 3. Getting Out the Vote (2:48)
• 4. The American Process (3:56)
• 5. The Blue and 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 (traditional) (2:41)
• 11. Equality Under the Law (3:11)
• 12. Freedom's Call (6:06)
• 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) (1:31)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers and the following note from Spielberg about the score and film:

    "Lincoln is a milestone for John and me. This is our 40th anniversary making movies and music and we are celebrating by way of a subject that has fascinated both of us separately for most of our lives. Trying to acquit a story of our greatest President at the bloody crossroads of abolishing slavery and reunification of a nation torn in two by four years of Civil War caused both of us to proceed with the utmost restraint.

    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. He guided our country through its worst crisis and, more than any other single person, helped the United States survive. In doing so, he helped the idea of democracy as a viable political system survive. He combined vision and practicality more succesfully than any other political leader we know of and kept these in a kind of near-perfect balance. He had faith in the people and in the democratic process and he helped prove that faith well founded.

    John and I were here to guide and support this story, but not to make our own voices heard above his. I am so honored not only to have been able to tell a story of Abraham Lincoln but to have had this story coincide with a landmark anniversary of the best creative collaboration of my whole career."

  All artwork and sound clips from Lincoln are Copyright © 2012, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/10/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.