The program will open with the cellists of the National Symphony, in tribute to both Slava's own mastery of that instrument and his work with the orchestra. NSO cellist David Teie has arranged the Sarabande from Bach's Suite No. 6 for unaccompanied cello (BWV 1012) for an ensemble made up of his section colleagues.
No tribute to Slava would be complete without the music of Shostakovich — a great composer, dear friend, and the musician Slava repeatedly cited immediately after his own father as his greatest musical influence. Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 became the National Symphony Orchestra's signature piece during Rostropovich's NSO tenure, with the Orchestra performing it in 16 countries on four continents. The Largo movement has been selected for this program.
To mark the beginning of Slava's tenure, Leonard Bernstein joined him for the second program during the first season. The two took turn and turn about on the podium, for Bernstein brought with him not one, but three, world premieres: Songfest, Three Meditations from Mass for Cello and Orchestra, and Slava! (A Political Overture). With its bright and energetic rhythms, and spoof of political speeches, the Overture was Bernstein's affectionate tip of the hat to his friend's new home in Washington, D.C.
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 (the "Path_tique") was the piece identified with two of the greatest pivotal points in the life of Mstislav Rostropovich: It was the last piece he conducted in Russia before being exiled in 1974; he therefore placed it on the first program he would conduct in Russia in 1990, during his triumphant return with the National Symphony Orchestra. For this memorial, the Finale of the "Pathtique" has been selected.
Last is a performance by Slava himself, and himself alone. The same Sarabande that opened the tribute concert will conclude it. Rostropovich recorded the complete Bach Cello Suites in 1995, and the closing piece on the program is taken from that recording.