Boston Globe Praises BMOP’s Magyar Madness


By Jeremy EichlerGlobe Staff  January 26, 2015

Hungarian music, Liszt once wrote, “is divided naturally into melody destined for song or melody for the dance.” Saturday’sambitious “Magyar Madness” program, presented by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, had representatives of both. It also had two alluring world premieres.

The first was by Bálint Karosi, an accomplished Hungarian-born organist who performs at First Lutheran Church in Boston while also currently honing his craft as a composer through doctoral studies at Yale. That he already possesses an ear for silvery orchestral sonorities was evident from his appealing work “Existentia,” which opened Saturday’s program. It was written in 2014 as a tribute to the revered Hungarian poet Sándor Weöres, its title borrowed from a Weöres poem to which the music responds wordlessly in its first two movements (“Prae-Existentia” and “Existentia”), and then in the final movement, titled “Post-Existentia,” a soprano rises from within the orchestra and sings Karosi’s setting of Weöres’s text.

That text itself is aphoristic and suggestive rather than discursive, and Karosi’s music itself, despite its lofty title, is neither bloated nor ponderous. The opening of the first movement features high-pitched, slowly drawn textures that take shape around an almost respiratory musical flow, haloed with an ear-catching shimmer conferred by a blend of cimbalom, vibraphone, harp, and celesta. The middle movement keeps strings busy with an almost post-minimalist perkiness over which winds and brasses interject. When Karosi’s sensitive vocal setting arrives near the end, the effect is a kind of embedded radiance, a solo voice glowing outward from deep within the ensemble.

Also the Boston Classical Review had nice things to say:

BMOP’s “Magyar Madness” delivers rewarding range of music with two premieres

January 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm

By David Wright

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The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, having promised a night of “Magyar Madness” Saturday at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, delivered world premieres of two outstanding, if well-behaved, works by Boston-based composers of Hungarian birth or ancestry and of Generation X vintage.  The madness was supplied by the old-timers, Béla Bartók and Gyorgy Ligeti.

Crazy or sane, violent or poetic, all the music in Saturday’s concert touched on Hungary’s distinctive culture as a place apart, isolated by geography and language, yet also bubbling with a mix of European and Asiatic influences.

The program proved richly rewarding from end to end.  Artistic director and conductor Gil Rose and his adept players showed that the old masters remain ever fresh, and today’s composers haven’t lost the knack of colorful, convincing music for orchestra.

In fact, some of the latter aren’t shy about revisiting older orchestral styles when the mood strikes them.  On Saturday, the first movement of Bálint Karosi’s Existencia—in memory of Sándor Weöres began and ended in a distinctive shimmer of high percussion and violin tremolos, but in the middle the wide-striding violin theme grew big and fervent à la Roy Harris, and some of the brass surges and cymbal sizzles were just this side of Hollywood.

One supposes even Steve Reich qualifies as an old master these days, and the propulsive patterns of this work’s second movement, based on the poet Weöres’s image of a person in the midst of life, had a Reichian feel.  Composer Karosi, a prominent organist on the Boston scene, deftly added “registration” in a long, Bolero-style crescendo to a climax, after which the persistent rhythm finally wound down, and the poet’s “existence” graphically (with tolling chimes, no less) gave way to what came after: a high shimmer like the first movement, a remembered folksong, a meditation for solo violin.

Although the three poems by Weöres that inspired the work were printed in the program, only the last was sung, and that briefly.  As the work wound to a close, alto Stephanie Kacoyanis rose from a seat in the orchestra to sing affectingly of an existence just past and one’s place in the eternal fabric of love.

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