Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams’s long and fruitful collaboration continues with “Lincoln.” The prolific Williams draws upon folk styles to create an impression of America’s 16th president.
On disc, the score is divided into seventeen cues, opening with the stately “The People’s House.” The long melodic lines sound at times like a folk melody of Appalachian or Irish descent, maybe a slowed down version of “Loch Lomond,” (a song first published in 1841). Other cues on the disc sound like forgotten hymns.
Williams’s orchestration relies heavily on strings. It’s a natural extension of the style he used in “War Horse” last year. For that score, Williams to some extent mimicked the music of Ralph Vaughan-Williams to evoke the English countryside of a century ago. For “Lincoln,” the earlier composer of reference feels (naturally) like Aaron Copland.
Beyond the orchestral cues, there are rustic instruments and homespun melodies on tracks like “Getting out the Vote."
“With Malice Toward None” is the noble and sentimental heart of the film, included on the soundtrack twice, first with full orchestra and again as a solo piano piece. And “The Purpose of the Amendment” represents Thaddeus Stevens, the fervent abolitionist who knew the right thing to say and when to say it, to get the 13th Amendment passed on the floor of the House.
Moments of “Lincoln” may tread familiar ground. But there are few other working composers who can write a melody as well as Williams. “Lincoln” is hands-down, pleasing music, stately, elegant, with just a hint of the country charm that remained within Lincoln himself, as masterfully played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the film.
The score is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by the composer.