LEONARD BERNSTEIN (trans. Clare Grundman)
When Mstislav Rostropovich (“Slava” to his friends) invited Leonard Bernstein to help him launch his inaugural concerts as Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra, he also asked him to write a rousing new opening piece for the festivities. This overture is the result, and the premiere took place on October 11, 1977, with Rostropovich conducting his orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The first theme is a vaudevillian razz-ma-tazz tune filled with side-slipping modulations and sliding trombones. Theme two, which prominently features the soprano saxophone, is a canonic tune in 7/8 time. A very brief kind of development section follows, after which two themes recur in reverse order. Near the end they are combined with a quotation (proclaimed by the ubiquitous trombones) from the “Coronation Scene” of Moussorgsky’s Boris Goundonov, where the chorus sings the Russian word slava, meaning “glory.” In this way, the composer paid an extra four-bar homage to his friend Slava Rostropovich, to whom this overture is fondly dedicated.
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