Leonard Bernstein’s “SLAVA! A Political Overture for Orchestra”, “Three Meditations from MASS” and “Songfest” were premiered on October 11, 1977 for Mstislav Rostropovich’s inaugural concerts as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. Bernstein composed the concert overture “SLAVA!” especially for the concert. Conducted by and dedicated to Rostropovich, the piece concludes with the musicians shouting “Slava!”

The second premiere, “Three Meditations from MASS” was also dedicated to Rostropovich. Bernstein conducted with Rostropovich as cello soloist, who widely performed the work.

The final premiere, “Songfest”, a setting of thirteen American poems, for six solo singers and orchestra, was conducted by the composer himself.
Jack Gottlieb wrote, “The subject matter of their poetry is the American artist’s experience as it relates to his or her creativity, loves, marriages, or minority problems—blacks, women, homosexuals, expatriates—within a fundamentally Puritan society.”