Aaron Copland himself wasn't there last night to join the 75 or so arts folks who watched the preview of "Kennedy Center Tonight" in the Atrium of the Center while sipping wine and eating scallops wrapped in bacon and mushrooms stuffed with cheese.

But, since the premiere of this PBS television show is called "A Copland Celebration," the composer got to see the tape last week in New York.

"He was reduced to tears at his own rendition of 'Lincoln Portrain,'" said Russ Martz of WQED in Pittsburgh -- which produced the show -- about the symphonic piece conducted by Leonard Bernstein and narrated by Copland. "He said, 'That's powerful stuff!'"

Although no one cried last night, most did enjoy watching 25 minutes of excerpts of the first in a PBS series on the Kennedy Center, which debuts in its 90-minute entirety on April 1.

"I like it, and I don't like television," said Roger Stevens, head of the Kennedy Center, whipping off glasses at the end of the preview, which was running on several televisions set up in the Atrium. His only correction was when Copland, speaking glowingly of Leonard Bernstein, pronounced his name Bern-steen. "Bern-stine, it should be," Stevens said matter-of-factly. n"He's very picky about that."

Dale Bell, the executive producer of the series, practically gushed with enthusiasm for the project. "'Live Fron Lincoln Center' it ain't," he said. "They would never have taken the risk of cutting away from the music during 'Lincoln Portrain' to go to the Lincoln Memorial. We personalized it. We made the music more human."

But some members of the board of the National Symphony Orchestra had a few problems with what they saw. "I wish there had been more Symphony," said board member Scooter Miller. "I was surprised when it said the Kennedy Center and the National Symphony invited Copland here. Actually, it was Slava [Rostropovich] who invited him."

"The orchestra sounded good," said NSO board President Leonard Silverstein afterward. He punched a fist in the palm of his hand. "Our orchestra must be on TV -- one way or another. The public has to know what we're doing."