Friday, November 1, 2013

21ST-CENTURY MUSIC / November 2013


November 2013

Volume 20, Number 11

Malcolm Arnold / Elizabeth Agnew

Lost and Found / Michael McDonagh

Calendar for November 2013

Chronicle of September 2013

Illustration / Malcolm Arnold

Editorial Staff

Mark Alburger


Harriet March Page

Patti Noel Deuter

Erling Wold

Elizabeth Agnew
Alexis Alrich
Katherine Buono
Ken Bullock
A.J. Churchill
David Cleary
Jeff Dunn
Phillip George
Elliot Harmon
Brian Holmes
Jeff Kaliss
John Lane
Arel Lucas
Michael McDonagh
Chip Michael
Tom Moore
Carol Marie Reynolds
William Rowland
Lisa Scola Prosek
Andrew Shapiro
Alice Shields


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Malcolm Arnold / Elizabeth Agnew

Malcolm Henry Arnold, (b. October 21, 1921, Northampton, UK - September  23,  2006, Norwich) was the youngest of five children from a prosperous family of shoemakers.  After seeing Louis Armstrong play in Bournemouth, he took up the trumpet at 12, and, five years, later won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music.  At the RCM he studied composition with Gordon Jacob and Ernest Hall.  In 1941 he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as second trumpet

That same year, he registered as a conscientious objector upon joining the National Fire Service, becoming principal with the LPO two years later.

Also in 1943, Arnold wrote the first of several highly successful concert overtures, Beckus the Dandipratt, and the began his series of concerti with one for horn, in a style acknowledging the influences of Hector Berlioz, Gustav Mahler, Bela Bartok, and jazz.

The next year, after his brother had been killed in the Royal Air Force, Arnold volunteered for military service.  When the army put him in a military band, he shot himself in the foot to get back to civilian life.  Following a season as principal trumpet with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, he returned to the London Philharmonic in 1946, for two years.

Soon after, Arnold wrote a film score, the first for over a hundred for documentaries and features between 1947 and 1969.

His nine symphonies, beginning with No. 1 (Op. 22, 1949), are among his most controversial and significant works, and often deeply personal and serious. It was at this time that Arnold also wrote Clarinet Concerto, Op. 20 (1949), for Benny Goodman.

The 1950's proved an especially prolific period for Arnold, such that by 1951, British critics ranked him with Benjamin Britten as one of the most sought-after composers, connecting his music with that of Jean Sibelius.  Arnold's natural melodic gift earned a reputation as composer of light music in works such as concert overtures, and dance sets.  The latter, including the English Dances (Opp. 27 [1950], and 33 [1951]), are popular both in their original orchestral guise and in later wind- and brass-band arrangements.  These dances are also the basis for Solitaire, choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan.

His first in a sequence of highly-successful collaborations with director David Lean was for 1952's The Sound Barrier.  This was followed the next year by The Captain's Paradise.

1954 saw the composition of his Harmonica Concerto, Op. 46, as well as the films Hobson's Choice You Know What Sailors Are, and The Belles of St Trinian's (a favorite score that was to be the first of a series through 1980).  After Trapeze (1956), his score for Lean's epic Bridge on the River Kwai, won an Academy Award in its year of composition -- 1957.  Cinematic effort in the following season included The Roots of Heaven and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), the latter winning an Ivor Novello Award.

His set of Scottish Dances, Op. 59, appeared in 1959, as did his Guitar Concerto, Op. 67, for Julian Bream. Other cinematic successesof this period included No Love for Johnnie (1960) and Whistle Down the Wind (1961).

By this time, Arnold had a reputation for being unpleasant, frequently drunk, and highly promiscuous --  divorcing his wife in that year.  His second wife was forced to take out a court order upon separation, and, after this divorce, he made two suicide attempts.

Following 1962's Cornish Dances, Op. 91, and two more film scores (The Inspector and The Lion) -- his three-hands-on-two-pianos concerto, for the husband-and-wife team of Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick, was enthusiastically premiered at the 1969 Proms.  This was also the year of Arnold's last major film score, David Copperfield.

In 1978, he was treated as an in-patient for several months in the acute psychiatric ward at the Royal Free Hospital, London, and the next year entered St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton to be treated for depression and alcoholism.

Arnold overcame both, despite being given only a year to live in the early 1980's, lived more than 20 more years thereafter, completing his final symphony in 1986, the same year as the Irish Dances (Op. 126), which were soon followd in 1988 by Cello Concerto, Op. 136, for Julian Lloyd Webber, and a Welsh (Op. 138, 1988) dance set.   By the time of his 70th birthday in 1991, Arnold's reputation recovered and he was able to appear at Royal Albert Hall to receive an ovation after a Proms performance of his Guitar Concerto.

Malcolm Arnold died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich, on September 23,  2006, after suffering from a chest infection.  His last work, The Three Musketeers, a pastiche assembled by John Longstaff and Anthony Meredith, was premiered that same day by the Northern Ballet, at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford.

A secondary school in Northampton, was renamed the Malcolm Arnold Academy after the composer on September 3, 2010.

Selected Works List

Divertimento No. 1, Op. 1 (1945)
Larch Trees, Op. 3 (1943)
Three Shanties for Woodwind Quintet, Op. 4 (1943)
Comedy Overture: Beckus the Dandipratt, Op. 5 (1943)
Trio for Flute, Viola and Bassoon Op. 6 (1942)
Quintet for Flute, Violin, Viola, Horn and Bassoon, Op. 7 (1944)
Variations on a Ukrainian Folk-Song, Op 9 (1944)
Duo for Flute and Viola, Op 10 (1945)
Horn Concerto No. 1, Op. 11 (1945)
Symphonic Suite, Op. 12
Symphony for Strings, Op. 13 (1946)
Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 15 (1947)
Children's Suite for Piano, Op 16 (1947)
Viola Sonata, Op. 17 (1947)
Two Bagatelles, Op. 18 (1947)
Flute Sonatina, Op. 19 (1948)
Concertino, Op 19a (2000)
Concerto for Clarinet and Strings No 1, Op 20 (1949)
The Smoke (Overture), Op. 21 (1948)
Antony and Cleopatra (1949)
Symphony No. 1, Op. 22 (1949)
Divertimento No. 2, Op. 24 (1950)
Laudate Dominum (Psalm 150) for choir and organ, Op. 25 (1950)
Serenade for Small Orchestra, Op. 26 (1950)
English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27 (1950)
Oboe Sonatina, Op. 28 (1951)
Clarinet Sonatina, Op. 29 (1951)
Concertino for Clarinet and Strings, Op 29a (1951)
Symphonic Study Machines Op. 30 (1951)
A Sussex Overture, Op. 31 (1951)
Concerto for Piano Duet and Strings, Op. 32 (1951)
English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33 (1951)
The Dancing Master, Op. 34 (1952; one act)
Two Ceremonial Psalms, Op. 35 (1952)
Eight Children's Piano Pieces, Op 36 (1952)
Divertimento for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet, Op 37 (1952)
Oboe Concerto, Op. 39 (1952)
Symphony No. 2, Op. 40 (1953)
Allegretto and Vivace for Concert Band, Op 40a (1953)
Recorder Sonatina, Op. 41 (1953)   
Homage to the Queen, Op. 42 (1953)
Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 43 (1953)
Flourish for a Birthday, Op 44 (1953)
Flute Concerto No. 1, Op. 45 (1954)
Harmonica Concerto, Op. 46 (1954)
Organ Concerto, Op. 47 (1954)
Sinfonietta No. 1, Op. 48 (1954)
Rinaldo and Armida, Op. 49 (1954)
Serenade for Guitar and Strings, Op. 50 (1955)
John Clare Cantata, Op. 52 (1955)
Little Suite No. 1, Op. 53 (1955)
Piano Trio, Op. 54 (1956)
Song of Praise "John Clare", Op. 55 (1956)
The Open Window, Op. 56 (1956; one act)
A Grand, Grand Overture, Op. 57 (1956)
Horn Concerto No. 2, Op. 58 (1956)
The Bridge on the River Kwai Concert Suite (1957)
Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59 (1957)
Oboe Quartet, Op. 61 (1957)
Toy Symphony, Op. 62 (1957)
Symphony No. 3, Op. 63 (1957)
Commonwealth Christmas Overture, Op. 64 (1957)
Sinfonietta No. 2, Op. 65 (1958)
Guitar Concerto, Op. 67 (1959)
Sweeney Todd, Op. 68 (1959)
Sweeney Todd Concert Suite, Op. 68a (1959)
The Song of Simeon, Op. 69 (1959)
Symphony No. 4, Op. 71 (1960)
Quintet For Brass, Op. 73 (1961)
Symphony No. 5, Op. 74 (1961)
Divertimento No. 2, revised, Op. 75 (1961)
Grand Concerto Gastronomique, Op. 76
Little Suite No. 2, Op. 78 (1961)
Attleborough, Op 78a (1923)
Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra, Op. 77 (1962)
Electra, ballet, Op. 79 (1963)
Little Suite No 1 for Brass Band, Op. 80 (1963)
Little Suite No. 4, Op. 80a (1963)
Sinfonietta No. 3, Op. 81 (1964)
Water Music, Op. 82 (1964)
Sunshine Overture, Op. 83 (1964)
Five pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 84 (1965
Duo for Two Cellos, Op 85 (1965)
Fantasy for Bassoon, Op 86 (1966)
Fantasy for Clarinet, Op 87 (1966)
Fantasy for Horn, Op. 88 (1966)
Fantasy for Flute, Op 89 (1966)
Fantasy for Oboe Op. 90 (1966)
Four Cornish Dances, Op. 91 (1966)
Little Suite No 2 for Brass Band, Op. 93 (1967)
Little Suite No. 5, Op. 93a (1957)
Symphony No. 6, Op. 95 (1967)
Peterloo Overture, Op. 97 (1968)
Salute to Thomas Merritt, Op. 98 (1987)
Anniversary Overture, Op. 99 (1968)
Fantasy for Trumpet, Op. 100 (1969)
Fantasy for Trombone, Op. 101 (1969)
Fantasy for Tuba, Op. 102 (1969)
Concerto for Piano 3 Hands and Orchestra, Op. 104 (1969, for Phyllis and Cyril)
Concerto for 28 players, Op. 105 (1970)
Fantasy for Guitar, Op. 107 (1971)
Viola Concerto, Op. 108 (1971)
Song of Freedom for choir and brass band, Op. 109 (1972)
The Fairfield Overture, Op. 110 (1972)
Flute Concerto No. 2, Op. 111 (1972)
A Flourish For Orchestra, Op. 112 (1973)
Symphony No. 7, Op. 113 (1973)
Fantasy for Brass Band, Op 114a (1973)
Concerto No 2 for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op 115 (1974)
Fantasy on a Theme of John Field Op 116
Fantasy for Harp, Op. 117 (1975)
The Return of Odysseus, Op. 119 (1976)
Philharmonic Concerto, Op. 120 (1976)
Flute Sonata, Op. 121 (1977)
Variations for Orchestra, Op. 122 (1977)
Symphony for Brass Instruments, Op. 123 (1978)
Symphony No. 8, Op. 124 (1978)
Trumpet Concerto, Op. 125 (1988)
Four Irish Dances, Op. 126 (1986)
Fantasy for Recorder, Op. 127 (1987)
Symphony No. 9, Op. 128 (1986)
Three Fantasies for Piano, Op. 129 (1986)
Fantasy for Cello, Op 130 (1987)
Little Suite No 3 for Brass Band, Op. 131
Brass Quintet No. 2, Op. 132
Recorder Concerto, Op. 133 (1988)
Divertimento for Two Bb Clarinets, Op 135 (1988)
Concerto for Cello, Op 136 (1988)
Four Welsh Dances, Op. 138 (1988)
Flourish for a Battle, Op 139 (1989)
Robert Kett Overture, Op. 141 (1988)
A Manx Suite (Little Suite No. 3), Op. 142 (1990)

Lost and Found / Michael McDonagh

Philip Glass.  North Star (1977).
Philip Glass: Farfisa, Yamaha, and Hammond organs, Fender Rhodes piano, Arp synthesizer
Dickie Landry: soprano, tenor saxophones; flute
Joan LaBarbara, Gene Rickard: voices

Re-issued as part of Analog (2006) 0029


North Star: Mark di Suvero (1977)
Francois de Menil, director
Barbara Rose, writer
Philip Glass, composer

North Star: Mark di Suvero (1977, digital re-issue, 2011)

Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, May 22, 2013 - May 26, 2014, San Francisco, CA.

Documentaries about artists and their work are often dry affairs with frequently faceless music.  The subject tends to get lost in artspeak or woozy generalities and the music just marks time.  But Francois de Menil's North Star: Mark di Suvero (1977, re-issued by Microcinema, 2011) is an incisive look at a vital American sculptor, scored by the equally vital American composer Philip Glass.  It's a far cry from one about an academic public sculptor or the imperative towards the future that the New Vienna School and its disciples were driven by, because both artists work squarely in the present tense.  Who looks to tomorrow when today's enough, or as di Suvero puts it here: "The artist has to reject whatever the present society is doing to create the new image, that new form, to discover a new approach to the universe."

Pairing di Suvero with Glass is apt because sculpture, like music -- and music, like sculpture -- exists in space, and is perceived as space-in-time.  We may remember what we saw or heard a certain way, and then see and hear it differently another time.  This is clearly true of Glass's score, which I've known since its original incarnation on a Virgin LP, and which has struck me as obsessively redundant or gloriously fresh, depending on how I listened, in seemingly opposed moments.  The directness and simplicity of the materials is startling -- even mundane -- but Glass's imagination makes it work.  Keyboard vamps punctuate at surprising times.  Nonsense syllables circle each other. The intevallic material sometimes suggests School-of-Paris Perotin, like those long homophonic lines in early Glass pieces such as Music in Contrary Motion (1969), though it's tersely abbreviated here. The brevity of the music and its sometimes industrial sound tease and jolt the ear, and Glass' gift for weight, timing, and color is apparent in this early film score, which counts as his second full one, after Gordon Quinn's documentary Inquiring Nuns (c. 1977).

Film composers are used to having their scores thrown out (Hollywood has trashed about a half dozen of Glass's in the last few years, and Kubrick famously threw out Alex North's for 2001), or having the music they wrote for specific cues end up in entirely different places.  Glass avers that he wrote pieces for di Suvero's sculptures seen in the film; but none of these are heard complete, and many become partial bits for completely different pieces.  Glass may have had an agreement with de Menil to let the director use whatever he wanted for his cuts, with a view to releasing his score as an LP, which, as he notes, has "a different sequence . . . chosen in order to produce an independent and coherent listening experience. "

The music seems to work both ways, and the widely varied cinematography by de Menil, Alon Metzger, and Christian Blackwood situates and reveals di Suvero's work as well as his persona.  The sculptor comes off charming, passionate, articulate and vulnerable, in less than an hour's running time.  And it isn't often that a film and its music leave us with wanting something more, not from lack, but from abundance, squarely glimpsed.

Calendar for November 2013

November 2

Fifth-Annual Swarthmore Student-Alumni Composition Concert, including Peter Schickele's Dream Dances and Mark Alburger's Portraits of Three [Flute] Players.  Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.

November 5

Composer's Voice: Crane Harp Ensemble celebrates its fifteenth season with Fifteen Minutes of Fame.  Jan Hus Church, New York, NY. "15 one-minute works by different composers specifically written for The Crane Ensemble. The composers include: Erik Branch, Inna Buganina, David Heinick, Elbert Liu, Martin Loridan, Roger May, Buck McDaniel, Michael Mikulka, Akmal Parwez, Robert Percy, Edward Ruchalski, Curtis Nathaniel Smith, Gregoria Karides Suchy, Christopher M. Wicks, and Farcry C. Zuke. In addition to the Fifteen Minutes of Fame "suite," two other works featured on this concert have been written for the Crane Harp Ensemble: Ryan Mix's When / Where Lightning Strikes at the T and Two Brothers Dance in Spacetime: Two Amalgamating Memories of Adolescence and their Art of Deliquescing Entropy, and a newly-commissioned work by John Paul Brabant titled Soliloquy. Also on this program are Domenick Argento's The Angel Israfil, Caroline Lizotte's Raga, Gregoria Karides Suchy's Save, O Lord, Thy People, and Sufjan Steven's Chicago, arranged by ensemble member, Mikaela Davis. Snell Hall, Crane School of Music, SUNY-Potsdam, NY. Through November 10 (New York, NY).

November 9

San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra presents Fellow Travelers: Mark Alburger's Double Piano Concerto ("Fellow Travellers"), Phil Freihofner's Filled with Moonlight, Eduard Prosek's The Curse, Lisa Scola Prosek's Two Excerpts from "The Lariat", David Sprung's Haiku, and Davide Verotta's Invitation.  Old First Church, San Francisco, CA.

November 16

Anoushka Shankar.  Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York, NY.

November 20

75th Birthday Concert -- Charles Wuorinen: Virtuoso Works for Solo Piano and String Quartet.  The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY.

November 30 

The Opus Project presents Opus 11.  Arnold Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, Op. 11; Bela Bartok's  Duke Bluebeard's Castle, Op. 11; Anton Webern's Three Little Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 11, Sergei Prokofiev's Toccata, Op. 11; Paul Hindemith's Viola Sonata, Op. 11, No. 4; Kurt Weill's Recordare, Op. 11; Dmitri Shostakovich's Two Pieces for Octet, Op. 11; Samuel Barber's String Quartet, Op. 11; Benjamin Britten's On This Island (Auden), Op. 11; Terry Riley's In C (in an 11-minute performance) (1964); John Bilotta's The Ikariad (Electronic Composition 11); and Mark Alburger's Portraits of Three (Flute) Players, Op. 11.  Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA.

Chronicle of September 2013

September 9

Dedalus Ensemble presents Made in USA.  Roulette, New York, NY.  "This polished, proficient Montpellier ensemble -- represented here by a sextet of Amélie Berson, flutist; Cyprien Busolini, violist; Pierre Stéphane Meugé, saxophonist; Deborah Walker, cellist; Thierry Madiot, trombonist; Didier Aschour, guitarist -- came together in 1996. Modern American music is one of its specialties, Mr. Aschour said from the stage between pieces. . . . "40˚ 44’ 5.82” N, 74˚ 1’ 38.53” W, by Devin Maxwell, was an amiably strident greeting, with chords and clusters hammered insistently, then lightly, in ragged unison (Running the title through Google Maps renders a street address in Manila, although the coordinates are actually those of a site in Hoboken, N.J).  A similar rhythmic vitality applied in Jonathan Marmor’s brightly pointillist Penguin Atlas of African History and Michael Vincent Waller’s sweetly lyrical Ritratto.  Quentin Tolimieri’s Any Number of Instruments dispatched Mr. Madiot to the balcony, his melancholy lines wafting out above moody chords floating up from the stage.  Coney Island, April 15, 2012, by Craig Shepard, ended the concert’s first half with dreamlike melancholy, punctuated with the metal tingle of triangles suspended from each player’s music stand.  Most of the works on the concert’s second half dealt in tonal ambiguity and intense, tactile timbres. For the first of Jason Brogan’s Deux Études, the musicians took places among audience members on the floor.  As they played near the threshold of audibility, your listening grew sharp and broad, folding the room’s ambience and outdoor street sounds into the piece.  The second étude, played later in the set, offered a concentrated perspective of similar gestures, with the players onstage.  Both Catherine Lamb’s Overlays Transparent/Opaque and John Hastings’s Theory of Harmony employed similar extremes of silence, space and detail.  In these pieces, placid discords conjured eerie overtones, wobbling beats and the sounds of instruments not present; Mr. Hastings added electronic static, his sounds rising above, then receding below, a wash of white noise.  Setting instruments aside, the Dedalus players ended with The Young Generation Is Right, by Travis Just, clapping their hands in steady patterns in alternation with electronic tones from a laptop computer.  After all the meditative intensity that preceded it, Mr. Just’s piece provided a welcome note of playful quirk" [Steve Smith, The New York Times, 9/10/13].

September 28

Teng Ensemble presents Eight.  Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore.  "The all-Singaporean Teng Ensemble, now in their eighth year, also has eight members, conveniently giving their concert its title. All its members are music teachers and they have just recorded their first album. They include a countertenor and performers on the yangqin, pipa, sheng, guzheng, cello, erhu and guitar.  As composer-in-residence Benjamin Lim Yi took pains to explain repeatedly throughout the concert, this was not a classical Chinese music concert -- the ensemble decided early on in their existence that they did not want to pigeon-hole themselves in their repertoire, opting instead to bring as large an audience to Chinese music as possible.  In an effort to portray an image different from that usually associated with classical Chinese musicians, the ensemble has carved itself a niche in Singapore’s often bland music scene, and their chosen uniform -- a snazzy black suit, skinny tie ensemble speaks to such aspirations. . . .  A sea of white chrysanthemums took centre-stage, forming an attractive foreground between the audience and the musicians, and also a canvas on which mood lighting – very well executed, by the way – was projected. Eight new pieces / arrangements by Benjamin Lim Yi . . . were given their first performance.  Despite his varied experience in film scoring, with at least five film scores to his name, including the complex score . . . to Loo Zihan’s controversial Threshold, these pieces seemed often cut from the same cloth, with atmospheric, dreamy mood music . . . interspersed with pentatonic melodies on electronica.  Many of the tunes had a pre-recorded synthesized track -- the purely acoustic arrangement of  The Moon at Mt Guan  (lovely, but too short an excerpt) was an exception; Un die in Settembre was another.  Lim’s ability to create complex musical scores was not much in evidence here, many pieces were quite easy to listen to but not the most memorable, with what might best be described as chinoiserie with a bass-line, what might result if Kitaro (those drum beats in Forest Trail, mainly) got together with Yanni and Joe Hisaishi to write the soundtrack to a Chinese film score. . . . The most successful pieces were the mellow Un Die in Settembre, inspired by Hisaishi. and Valse, which Lim explained was influenced by their common love of Korean drama" [Derek Lim, The Flying Inkpot, 9/29/13].

The Opus Project presents Opus 9.  Alexander Scriabin's Left-Hand Prelude & Nocturne; Arnold Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, Bela Bartok's Dirge, Op. 9, No. 1; Igor Stravinsky's Poem of Paul Verlaine, Op. 9, No. 1; Anton Webern's Bagatelle, Op. 9, No. 1; Sergei Prokofiev's Poem, Op. 9, No. 1, Paul Hindemith's Song, Op. 9, No. 1; Kurt Weill's Quodlibet, Op. 9, No. 1; Dmitri Kabalevsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 9, No. 3, Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 1 in One Movement; Alan Hovhaness's Piano Quintet, Op. 9, No. 1; Benjamin Britten's Soirees Musicales, Op. 9, No. 1; John Lennon's Revolution 9; Mark Alburger's Psalm 92; Michael Stubblefield's Distant Worlds: Sumeria; and Austin Graham's Mild Insanity.  Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA.

Dmitri Shostakovich's The Nose.  Metropolitan Opera, New York, NY.  Through October 26.  "William Kentridge’s . . . staging of Shostakovich’s first opera, The Nose . . . with unflagging energy and unfettered imagination . . . powerfully seconds both the irreverent zaniness of the Gogol story . . . and the teeming exuberance of Shostakovich’s music.  Gogol’s tale, from 1836, is a sendup of self-important petty bureaucrats. His antihero, Kovalyov, a collegiate assessor who likes to be called Major, wakes up one morning to find his nose gone: possibly the victim of a razor slip by Kovalyov’s tippling barber, Yakovlevich, though the circumstances are, in Gogol’s words, 'enshrouded in mist.' The Nose, meanwhile, has swelled to human scale and taken on a life of its own, complete with a career as state councilor, a bureaucratic rank higher than Kovalyov’s. Understandably confounded and momentarily humbled, Kovalyov spends the work in pursuit of the Nose, which he ultimately succeeds in having put back in its place, literally and figuratively.  Shostakovich, who was 20 when he began the opera in 1927, responded with a peacock display of his prodigious gifts, a richly inventive score that in retrospect seems to have accurately predicted many of the directions of his work to come. The highly original special effects include an extended interlude for percussion alone and a song by Kovalyov’s servant, Ivan, accompanied by balalaikas. . . .  The setting, though never terribly specific, is clearly meant to represent the Russia in which Shostakovich was working, the nascent Stalinist era, with red flags and banners flying, and Stalin himself the subject of some of those sketches. It was surely a time as rich in petty bureaucrats as Gogol’s Russia a century before, and so the satire seems as pertinent in that sense as it is impertinent in mood. . . .  The Nose, generally just a visual presence, has one big number, lording it over Kovalyov in the cathedral, which Alexander Lewis, a tenor, effectively dispatched here. . . . [Valery] Gergiev is a master of this score, and the Met Orchestra responded eagerly to his ministrations, reveling in the young Shostakovich’s brash strokes" [James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, 10/1/13].