Slava! A Political Overture by Leonard Bernstein

The renowned conductor, composer and pedagogue Leonard Bernstein will be celebrating his centennial next year. This composition was written as a rousing opening for the inaugural concerts of Mstislav Rostropovich as Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. The first theme of Slava! is a vaudevillian tune redolent of political campaign high-jinks. Theme two, which prominently features the electric guitar, is a canonic tune in 7/8 time. A very brief kind of development section follows, after which the 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 Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, where the chorus sings the Russian word slava! meaning “glory!” In this way the composer is paying an extra-bar homage to his friend Rostropovich, whose nickname is Slava, and to whom the work is dedicated.