Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Mstislav Rostropovich came onto the Kennedy Center stage fast Tuesday night, gave the jam-parked audience a quick bow, and, turning to the musicians of the National Symphony, threw himself into Leonard Bernstein's new "pilitical" overture called "Slava"
In Russian the word "slava" means "glory," "praise," "hail." It is also the nicknake by which hundereds refer to Mstislav Rostropovich. All these and "Welcome to Washington were among Bernstein's meanings when he wrote this wonderfully noisy, jazz satirical piece to honor his friend and colleague on his accession to the NSO leadership.
It's razzmatazz opening led straight into the kind of rouse-'em-up march you might have heard at a rally for William Jennings Bryan. And suddenly, from a tape somewhere back in the orchestra, came a booming voice, saying:
"If I am elected to this high office . . . the people are sick and tired of . . . give you the next President of the U . . ." At Another noisy moment, the whole orchestra shouted "Pooks," which Rostropovich not only joined but which he led looking and sounding as if he had been raised in Rapid City, S.D.
And that was only the begining of the all-Bernstein evening with which the great composer-conductor helped Washingtons salute their new conductor.
At the end of the program. Bernstein conducted the first performance of his new celebration of American poetry in song which he calls "Song-fest." It is a magnificent series of 13 songs to poems by poets ranging from Anne Bradstreet, who lived in North Amberst in the Massachusetts Ray Colony back in 1650, to June Jordon, who was in the audience Tuesday night.
In an evening that held passages from a great Bernstein film score, "On the Waterfront," moving episodes from "Mass," which he compossed for the opening of the Kennedy Center six years ago, and the smash overture which he wrote just about two weeks ago, "Songfest" is a glowing testimonial to the richness and variety of vigorous and beautiful new ideas that are now pouring out of this remarkable man.
Great songs with orchestra have become almost a forgotten art. Certainly no one else ever has given us so uperbly, prouldy American a set.
The voices of six of the best American singers shone through words of Whitman and Millay, Ferlinghetti and O'Hara.
The audience did not want to let Bernstein or the soloists or the orchestra go at the end of the evening. The shouts and applause went on for many minutes, through continuing recalls.
The evening was a unique triumph for Bernstein and his friend and host. Rostropovich. One of its highest moments came when Washington's new musical idol put down his baton and took up his cello and bow to play the first performance of Three Meditations from the "Mass" that Bernstein had recorded on that same stage six years ago, almost ot the same nignt.
With some new material gathered into the third Meditation, they are a fleeting memento of that memorable score. The orchestra, which played hansomely all evening made exquisite sounds. As for Rostropovich, any time be wants to stop conducting he can have a triumphant career as the world's greatest cellist. His fingers worked skittering miracles in some of the most whispered phrases ever asked of the instrument. The week's repetitions, through Friday afternoon are sold out. Isn't that nice?