Bálint Karosi, music director at the Lutheran Church in Back Bay, Boston, gave an excellent recital on the op. 55 Fisk organ in front of about fifty people at Old West Church on May 13. It was the last of the church’s International Series. Karosi was introduced by IS’s executive director Margaret Angelini, who gave him a basket of submitted hymn themes to choose one for his improvisation. Appropriately enough for a European who hails from Hungary, it was Ein’ feste Burg.
The recital began with Nicolas de Grigny’s (1672-1705) Veni Creator. This is a five-part piece, with the first movement played on the plein jeux (principals and mixture without reeds). It gave way to J. S. Bach’s Dies sind die heiligen zehn Gebot, BWV 678, from the 18 Leipzig chorales. This clever piece features the chorale tune in canon on the pedal at the fifth. This is a difficult piece; Karosi played it masterfully.
The next piece was Karosi’s (b. 1979) improvisation, Partita on Ein‘ feste Burg. This appeared to have five sections. The first was brassy, with the tune in the pedal. The next was soft, whereas the next variation featured the tune on the reed stop. The last movement was grand. Karosi is a good improvisor, a handy skill when the bride is late.
After the intermission came four pieces: Ave Maria by anniversary composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Hommage à Franz Liszt by Lionel Rogg (b. 1936), Andante from the Grand Pièce Symphonique by César Franck (1822-1890), and Prelude and Fugue in G minor, op. 7 by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971).
Although Liszt wrote powerful pieces for organ — like the BACH piece, the Ave Maria is like the tone poems, quiet and dignified. Lionel Rogg’s 2010 homage, commissioned by the performer, meanders a little bit in the middle but has a powerful ending.
Franck’s Andante once again returns to the quieter realm, only to give way to an early piece by the French organist Dupré, one of a set of three pieces dating from 1914. This was before he gained the titulaire position at St. Sulpice in Paris from Charles-Marie Widor in 1934. Dupré was known as a great improviser, fitting for this recital that included an improvisation. Once, following a recital at St. Thomas’ church in New York City, he got a front-page review in The New York Times! This early piece has all the hallmarks of the composer: a powerful prelude and angular fugue theme. Once again, Karosi did it justice.
The Old West Organ Society’s summer series begins on July 12.
Larry Phillips studied music at Harvard, the Montreal Conservatory, and at New England Conservatory. In 1974 he was a prizewinner at the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges, Belgium.