Bridging the Gap II Jan. 22, National Sawdust

Featuring composers from the Yale School of Music: Martin Bresnick, Michael Gilberston, Balint Karosi, and Aaron Jay Kernis Michael Gilbertson: Low Hanging Fruit Jesse McCandless, clarinet; Manaka Matsumoto, violin; Pall Kalmansson, cello; Liliya Ugay, piano Michael Gilbertson: Nocturne Jiji Kim, guitar; Leo Sussman, flute Aaron Jay Kernis: Ballad Jenny Kwak, cello; Aaron Jay Kernis, piano Aaron Jay Kernis: Second Ballad Jenny Kwak, cello; Evelyne Luest, piano Bálint Karosi: Sonata for Bassoon and Piano Adrian Morejon, bassoon; Hiromi Fukuda, piano Martin Bresnick: Bird As Prophet Elly Toyoda, violin; Lisa Moore, piano

About the Series

Bridging the Gap, created by National Sawdust Curator Robert Sirota, is a series of concerts of chamber, choral, and solo compositions that explore the student/teacher and mentor/mentee relationships between generations of composers. The series will emphasize the influences that brought about the expansion of musical styles and approaches over the past 20-30 years. How has music changed? What are the aesthetic values and sound worlds from which this new music is emerging?  What are the roles of academic vs. non-academic influences? How have older composers been influenced by the work of their younger colleagues? Each concert will be preceded by a discussion with composer mentors, mentees, and performers, led by a distinguished thought leader. The concerts themselves will include performances of works by both younger composers and the teachers who have influenced their development.
Tickets and more info at:

Concerto No. 2 for Organ, Percussion and Strings

My second concerto for organ, percussion and strings (2016) was commissioned by my former organ teacher, János Pálúr for the inaugural concert of his re-built organ at the Fasor Reformed Church in Budapest. The 18-minutes long concerto has a through-composed, tripartite form with three "mildly" contrasting sections. The main idea was to try to blend the percussion instruments with the organ as much as possible. The first section of the concerto opens with blended descending fifth tremolos on flute stops and on vibraphone, with the string chords as a sort of "sonic glue" around them. The second "movement" continues the fifths but without the tremolos and focusing more on solecistic material, evoking melodic snippets Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. The last movement is a virtuosic duel between the organ and xylophone, culminating in the quotation of the opening of Poulenc's Concerto for Organ, timpani and strings. I used the same orchestration as the staple organ concerto in G Minor by Francis Poulenc, except with a very soloistic percussion part, with a variety percussion instruments including Bass Drum, Vibraphone, Xylophone, Snare Drum and Tam-Tam. This is my first piece in which I use a direct quotation of another composer.The premier took place on Novemeber 4, 2016 at Saint Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City by Bálint Karosi, organ, Charles Kiger, percussion and the Spectrum Symphony of New York conducted by David Gruneberg. The piece will have a Canadian Premier the following week in Edmonton and a third performance at the Reformed Church in Fasor in Budapest on April 24, 2017. The concert was reviewed here

“Concordia Symphony” for Symphonic Wind Orchestra

I just completed "Concordia Symphony" for Symphonic Wind ensemble and Organ, for the Concordia Wind Symphony in Chicago, led by Dr. Richard Fisher for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The symphony has the classical four movement structure, eat movement based on a Lutheran Chorale. The premier will take place in March 2017, and the piece will go on tour on the East Coast and in South Africa.

Two Hungarian Premieres by UMZE

November 23, Budapest Music Center


Pierre Boulez: Dérive 1 Bálint Karosi: Ciaccona (Hungarian première) Bálint Karosi: Sanguine (Hungarian première) Claude Debussy: Brouillards - (Préludes II/1) András Hamary: Brouillards - Three movements to the Prelude of Claude Debussy (Hungarian première) András Hamary: Hommage à Janáček (Hungarian première) Leos Janáček: Capriccio for Piano (for left hand) and Wind Instruments  


Péter Kiss - piano UMZE Chamber Ensemble Conducted by Gergely Vajda   On the first concert of the present season of UMZE, Gergely Vajda aims to present works of two expatriate Hungarian composers. Both of them started their career as soloists: Boston-based composer and conductor Bálint Karosi achieves outstanding success as organist even up to recent times, while András Hamary, starting as a multi-award-winner pianist, is since 1986 professor for piano and chamber music at the Würzburg Hochschule für Musik. Their compositions are paired with two already classical 20th century compositions.

Appointment at St. Peter’s Lutheran in NYC

I am pleased to announce my appointment as the new Cantor at Saint Peter's Church in New York City. I am humbled by the committee's decision to select me as their new Cantor, at the same time I am very excited to work in such a welcoming, dedicated Lutheran congregation to art, music and social ministries in the heart of Manhattan. After eight unbelievable years at the First Lutheran Church of Boston, I am still in awe of the support this congregation has given me to grow FLC's music program. I am sad to leave in the middle of the Bach Vespers Series but I believe that the momentum in the music program will carry on with my successor. I am forever grateful for FLC's unwavering support for high quality music and of my work. I pray that my successor have as much joy and gratification serving in Boston as I had in my past eight years. Here are the words of Watson Bosler, in St. Peter's Newsletter.
Dear Friends:
I write to you all today with splendid news.  The Cantor Call Committee has completed its work, and with great joy and thanksgiving has selected Bálint Karosi as Saint Peter's new Cantor.
Bálint (that's pronounced BAH-lint-it's Hungarian for "Valentine") is an extraordinarily gifted young musician.  Born in Budapest in 1979, he studied there (at the Liszt Academy), in Geneva (at the Conservatoire), and at both the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and at Yale, in both the department of music (where he has finished his Master of Musical Arts in Composition degree en route to a Doctorate in the same field) and at the Institute of Sacred Music (where he received his certificate last year).  In 2014 he also received a Charles Ives Fellowship, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters to promising young composers.
Along the way, he has won recognition (usually placing first) in a number of prestigious instrumental competitions, as an organist and as a clarinetist as well as in improvisation. Perhaps most meaningful to a Lutheran parish is the fact that he placed first in organ division of the Sixteenth International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig in 2008, thus becoming the only American to win any prize there since the Competition began in 1950, and only the second Hungarian to do so.
Since his arrival in America in 2003, Bálint has come to love our country-soon to be his country when he becomes a citizen. That said, he still maintains close ties with his native Hungary, where his mother, Júlia Pászthy, is a distinguished veteran of the State Opera and a teacher at Bálint's alma mater, the Liszt Academy.  For the last seven years he has served as Minister of Music at First Lutheran, a Missouri Synod church in downtown Boston.  While there, he established a sterling music program, including a Bach Cantata Vespers series and the annual Boston Bach Birthday festival. Christoph Wolff, one of our time's preeminent Bach scholars and Adams University Professor at Harvard University, wrote the Committee in his letter of recommendation for Bálint that our new Cantor has "made a major difference in [Boston's] musical life, notably in the areas of early and new music, particularly in sacred music...above all he emphasizes the spiritual importance and outreach of his musical ministry at First Lutheran Church."
While his résumé is undeniably impressive, so is Bálint in person. He is quiet but forceful; has a great sense of humor-such a wonderful quality!-and knows exactly what he wants, both from an instrument and from a choir.  The Committee interviewed him in person twice, and was deeply impressed by his musicianship and his manifestly superior organ-playing and conducting abilities.  The musicians who joined us at the second audition-Robin Lynn Frye (Elsa Larsson was sadly under the weather), Walter Hilse and Clay Ruede, all longtime members of the Saint Peter's musical family, along with Committee member Sharon Gunderson-were unanimous in their praise of his conducting and interpretive abilities: Robin commented that "he made me a better singer by virtue of his conducting and his coaching suggestions, and that is the best any singer can ask of a conductor."
As for his hymn-playing and liturgical "chops," they are right up there with his conducting and organ-playing skills.  While it is true that he is not yet totally familiar with the Evangelical Worship hymnal and service book, he already has a copy (he bought it up in Boston!), and is well on his way towards feeling completely at home with our liturgical practice, which is quite different from that of the Missouri Synod.  We can also expect to be performing his own compositions-those we were privileged to hear made a great impression on us all, and especially Ike Sturm, another Committee member.
By now I hope you are all champing at the bit!  When will he be here? The short answer is mid- to late November. Let's recall the angst Tom's departure caused all of us. Yes, he'd been here twenty-five years, but he had the good fortune to build-and build so well!-upon the strong foundation Gordon Jones had bequeathed to us all. Imagine what the First Lutheran folks are feeling about the departure of Bálint, who all but created a vibrant music program from scratch in a town even less Lutheran than New York, earning kudos from as distinguished a scholar and Bach expert as Christoph Wolff along the way.  All of this is to say that the separation will be a little prolonged; a brand new multi-concert cantata series, planned by Bálint, is just about to start there and he feels duty bound to see it reach lift-off (and our Committee took that concern and devotion as a very good sign in and of itself).
I want to say a word or two about my fellow Committee members.  They were Eugene Brand, Pastor Amandus Derr, Sharon Gunderson, Betty Jackson, Jackie Mize-Baker, James Pfister and Ike Sturm.  From our first meeting some nine months ago, they have worked together as a coherent and mutually supportive team, each contributing his or her special gifts to the process that somehow produced such a gratifying result. I won't bore you with more detail, but "I'm just saying" that even at the most difficult moments-and let me tell you there were some!-we never lost our senses of humor nor our firm belief that the "still, small voice" was in its own inscrutable way leading us.  The very idea that from over sixty applicants we have been blessed with an individual of Bálint's gifts is proof that the Spirit was indeed among us during this journey. I want to extend my profoundest thanks to this hardy band for all their devotion and hard work-and you should as well.
A very special shout out, however, must go to Committee member James Pfister.  What an extraordinary job he has done these past months! I personally want to offer him my deepest thanks for providing us with such a first-rate bridge from one splendid cantorate to the dawn of another.  With a bench as deep as this, I have no doubt that Saint Peter's musical program will thrive for years to come.  And I am sure that when John Tarbet joins him this Sunday for the final stages of that bridge-building, we will all owe him a vote of thanks as well.
And so now, to build anew on the strong musical foundation set by Gordon Jones and Tom Schmidt, two Midwestern descendants of Welsh and German immigrants, we welcome to Saint Peter's a son of Budapest.  For a parish founded by those brave enough to cross an ocean to start new lives, this is a refreshing and invigorating incarnation of our 150th anniversary motto: Deeply rooted, always growing.
This Sunday, as luck (the Spirit?) would have it, we will be singing a splendid hymn with a text drawn from the Hungarian Protestant tradition: "There in God's garden"- Paradicsomnak te szép élö fája in Hungarian. Pécseli Király Imre (in Hungarian the first name comes last!) was a seventeenth-century Hungarian pastor, and his text, in its English paraphrase by Eric Routley, is one of the most deeply meaningful in our new hymnal. I take it as a sign that this wonderful Hungarian poem is matched by an equally marvelous new tune-by an American, K. Lee Scott.  As we join together this Sunday to sing this example of these two cultures meeting in this sacred space, we can truly see a new meaning in its final stanza:
All heav'n is singing,
"Thanks to Christ whose passion
offers in mercy
healing, strength, and pardon.
Peoples and nations,
Take it, take it freely!"
Amen! My Master!

Antico Moderno focuses on fresh sounds for period instruments- The Boston Globe

The ensemble plays historical instruments associated with early-music orchestras.


Jacques Wood’s eureka moment came when he was a graduate student at Yale. Having completed the academic portion of his doctoral studies in cello performance, Wood in 2010 began an immersion in early music practice with Robert Mealy, one of the country’s prominent historical-string players. For many musicians trained on modern instruments, the first serious encounter with instruments of the past can be such a bombshell that they end up pursuing early music with a convert’s zeal.

For Wood, the experience brought a different insight no less revelatory. “My initial reaction was that playing early music for the first time felt a lot like playing new music for the first time,” he said in a recent conversation at a Harvard Square cafe. “It’s the same feeling, where there’s no tradition attached to it. You’re looking at it for the first time.”

“Instead of playing old repertoire,” Wood put it, “wouldn’t it be cool if we could combine these two worlds, which seem so similar, and see what we could do?”

That insight led, eventually, to the formation of Antico Moderno, a new Boston group dedicated to the creation of what it calls “new music for old instruments.” The group, led by Wood and composer-organist Balint Karosi, played its first official concert in December. Its second will be on Friday, a program of ancient and new works. Wood and Karosi will lead a workshop June 1-5, an opportunity for interested composers to immerse themselves in the possibilities and challenges of writing for period instruments. The group will also give a Fringe Concert on June 12 as part of the Boston Early Music Festival.

Karosi was one of six Yale composition students whom Wood asked to write pieces for the Yale Baroque Ensemble in 2013. “When you’re a composer in a graduate program, you want to try your hands on everything,” Karosi said of his first try at this melding of worlds. “This was a challenge, because I had no idea how to approach this.”

Karosi’s piece, “Bach Studies” took its bearings from Bach’s G-major Trio Sonata (BWV 1039). Each movement drew upon one element from the Bach — melodic, harmonic, rhythmic — explored in Karosi’s own language. It was an interesting experiment, and Wood and Karosi, who would soon both be living in Boston, wanted to continue and amplify. Wood had begun playing as a guest with the chamber orchestra A Far Cry, many of whose players signed on for what would eventually become Antico Moderno.

Plenty of others were interested as well. Wood and Karosi launched a website last summer after a Norfolk Chamber Music Festival residency. Before they’d even announced any events, they began to receive inquiries from composers offering to send them pieces.

“The interesting thing about this idea is that it is happening by itself,” said Karosi. “It’s not really us driving it; it’s happening anyway.” He’s already seen a similarly oriented group in New York, as well as a Norwegian ensemble playing jazz and modern music on Renaissance instruments in his native Budapest. “We had maybe a special antenna and we picked up some vibes that are already happening.”

As it exists now, Antico Moderno consists of a small group of performers, mostly from A Far Cry, and a composer in residence — currently Robert Honstein — one of whose works is on each concert. As important as the concerts are the workshops, in which composers get an initial orientation to the instruments and, later, a chance for feedback from the musicians before the performance on what works and what doesn’t.

That’s crucial, because differences can be vast. Because the sound of a gut-string instrument decays faster than that of a steel-string one, for example, harmonics and glissandos on the former can be tricky. Try doing a ponticello — bowing near the bridge of the instrument, a modern technique — on a period instrument, and you get a completely different sound that Wood described as being “almost like electronic-music distortion.”

Friday’s concert is called “La divisione,” and its pieces are all oriented around the theme of division. Sometimes that can mean separating players spatially, as in works by Gabrieli and Corelli. Sometimes the division is temporal, as in Katherine Balch’s “Recordatorio” for two violins, cello, harpsichord, and countertenor, whose text (from Ecclesiastes) centers on our being cut off from our own past and future. And sometimes it refers to the partition between life and death: Karosi’s “The Final Wait” was inspired by a Bach cantata that meditates on the afterlife, and uses Bach’s instrumentation.

Right now, Antico Moderno is still at a stage at which everything is done on a volunteer basis. Wood foresees the coming year as one in which they’ll focus on raising money and beginning the long, unsteady path to self-sustenance. Wood wants to eventually offer four to six concerts a year, and envisions more outreach work, in which the group would work with composition departments at universities and conservatories.

As a composer, Karosi sees another, more practical benefit to this kind of project beyond the artistic one. “Composers need any kind of platform to put out their works,” he said. “The only way you will succeed as a composer is to sell your music somehow, and have some exposure to your music, even if it’s weird. If you find your niche audience, you will succeed.”



Music of Gabrieli, Morley, Corelli, Bach, Biber, Balch, Gottlieb, Karosi, and Honstein

At: First Lutheran Church of Boston, Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10-$20.


David Weininger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @davidg

Vive La Liberté – review of my Triple Concerto (Hungarian)

Várjatok egy kicsit… hol is kezdjem… Tudjátok, nehéz általánosan beszélni olyan hangversenyről, amely zenei stílusát tekintve más és más és teljesen más darabokból áll össze. Talán nem is szükséges; mondjuk azt, hogy április 28-án este három koncerten voltam a Zeneakadémián, amelyeken végig a Musiciens Libres és az Anima Musicae együttesek játszottak.


Horváth Balázs és a ML (fotó: Zeneakadémia)


A különböző hangversenyeket az azonos helyszín és előadói gárda mellett összekapcsolta a profizmus, a bombajó hangulat és a mágneses mező magja: a szabadság. Szabadság makro-stílusok, zenetörténeti korszakok között. Szabadság kispolgári dogmák és előadói paradigmák fölött. Dióhéjban ez jellemzi a fiatal, de annál innovatívabb együttest, a Musiciens Libres-t. Műfaji szabadság alatt most nem a klasszikus zenét felhígító, kommersz kultúrát értem, hanem egy magasabb rendű gondolatot. Azt, hogy egy együttes képes jól eljátszani egy Bach-darab után egy Gershwint, egy agyas kortárs mű után egy De Falla-dalt. Akik hallották már az együttest azok egyetértenek velem abban, hogy ez bizony életképes dolog, sőt mi több, nagyon is aktuális igény.

Környei Miklós (gitár), Szalai András (cimbalom) és Razvaljajeva Anasztázia (hárfa)
(fotó: Zeneakadémia)

A műfaji palettából három frappánsan kikevert színfoltot halhattunk. Először egy remek filmzenét (Karosi Bálint: Hármasverseny gitárra, cimbalomra és hárfára), egy izgalmas „klasszikus kortárs” darabot (Laczkó Bálint: Times of Change II.) és a Manuel De Falla-dalokból a zenekar által készített átirat-sorozatot. Nehéz egy ilyen összeállítást befogadni, hiszen minden darab eltérő percepciós lencsét követel magának. A hullámzó hangszíntengert követően stimuláló zenei konstrukcióra kellett átkapcsolnunk az agyunkat, míg végül a teljes kikapcsolódás, a puszta zenei élvezett következett – jazzes beütéssel.

Környei Miklós (gitás), Pintér Balázs (cselló) és Pregun Tamás (zongora) (fotó: Zeneakadémia)

Nem véletlenül használom a szín kifejezést Karosi darabja kapcsán, hiszen a szín-játék adta a zene fundamentumát. De micsoda virtuóz játék volt ez! Ötletgazdag, természetes és igazán szép. Filmzenének címeztem a művet, de nem a pejoratív értelemben. Egy pillanatról pillanatra, képkockáról képkockára változó, filmes logikát követő zenefestményt hallottunk, ami az ösztönösség benyomását keltve tárult fel előttünk. A darab címe kissé félrevezető, hiszen tulajdonképpen nem beszélhetünk versenyműről, ugyanis a szólisták inkább csak meghatározó festékként funkcionáltak, mintsem az egész képet formáló ecsetként. A zenekar nagyon jól szólt. Horváth Balázs biztos kézzel vezette az együttest és az ML (Musiciens libres) szólistáit, akik egytől-egyig kiválóan játszottak.

Lackó Bálint és Horváth Balázs (fotó: Zeneakadémia)

Laczkó darabja bebizonyította, hogy a látszólag kihasznált zenei apparátusokban mindig marad potenciál. Együttese konvencionális: fúvós-dominált kamarazenekar, billentyűsök, egy énekes, és egy csipetnyi elektronika. Hasonló receptből már temérdek vegyszerszagú kortárs mű született, de Laczkó használható eredményt tett a polcra. Darabjában az eltérő természetű hangcsoportokkal, akusztikai konzisztenciákkal kísérletezik, belőlük épít fel egy ötletes dramaturgiát. Hogyan is történt ez a valóságban? Először finoman felépített kamarazenei hangfelszínt hozott létre, melybe idővel belevegyítette az elektronikus anyagot, zaj és visszhangeffekt formájában. Ezután a harmadik tényezőt, az emberi éneket keverte bele a masszába. A darab frappáns és profi módon kivitelezett. A kamarazeneibb részek érzékeny együttmuzsikálási feladatát a zenekar mesterien oldotta meg. Az apró gesztusok végig koncentráltan szólaltak meg, élő, zsongó felszínt hozva létre.

Musiciens Libres (fotó: Zeneakadémia)

A finishben tényleg az volt az érzésem, hogy kicserélődött körülöttem a hangverseny. Egyrészt eltűnt a nagyszámú Anima Musicae, apró, de annál perzselőbb kamarazenekart hagyva a színpadon. Másrészt egy dögös spanyol jazz koncert vette kezdetét. Hmm… akkor most mit mondjak otthon: kortárs zenei koncerten voltam, vagy… vagy jazz?… áh, tök mindegy, jó volt! Temperamentumos játékával a ML bejáratott duója, Környei Miklós és Razvaljajeva Anasztázia párosa indította a partyt. Ezután egyre bővült a csapat, többek közt vokális erősítéssel is. Karosi Júlia hangja a klasszikusabb tételekben nem győzött meg. Rendben van, hogy egy jazz darabhoz nem operaénekesi hang szükségeltetik, de még a stílus elvárásaihoz képest is bizonytalan és nyers volt a produkció. Máris hozzáteszem, hogy előadása a harmadik énekes tételben már meggyőzött. Az improvizatív, igazán jazzes környezetben hangja már jól érezte magát, így én is magamat. A formációra oly jellemző szabadság ezekben a darabokban világlott ki igazán. A saját készítésű átiratokat improvizációs epizódok tarkították, melyekben a fantáziadús zenészek kiélték zenei fantáziájuk burjánzását. Hadd emeljem ki a középmagot képező fúvóstriót: Bán Máté, Szűcs Péter és Mohai Bálint az egész koncert alatt nagy teljesítményt nyújtottak, de itt, a hangverseny vége felé igazán elemükben voltak.

Mohai Bálint, Szűcs Péter és Bán Máté (fotó: Zeneakadémia)

Sokat gondolkoztam a hangversenyről. Kevésbé a darabokról vagy az előadásról, mert azok fergetegesek voltak. Inkább az egészről. Valóban szükségünk van ilyen vegyes koncertekre? Pár hónapja a zenekritikus Norman Lebrecht szokásosan hajmeresztő előadását hallgattam itt, ugyanebben a teremben. Az intézményesített koncertélet válságáról és a helyzet lehetséges megoldásairól beszélt. Ő azt mondta, hogy jelen helyzetben a talpra álláshoz alternatív megoldások szükségesek: szélesebb rétegek felé nyitás közös zenéléssel, műfaji átjárással. Hát, tessék emberek, itt egy remek csapat, aki tesz érte, hogy változzon a helyzet, és nem mellesleg baromi jó zenészek!


Featured composition: Existentia

Listen to the live recording of my work for chamber orchestra Existentia in memory Sándor Weöres. Recorded live at Jordan Hall on January 24, 2015. Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gill Rose. A studio recording will be released soon by Hungaroton. 


Clavierubung III CD on WGBH’s Bach Hour

My Hungaroton CD, a collaboration of Canto Armonico and First Lutheran Church of Bostoni, got a spot on radio station WCRB past Sunday. “BALINT KAROSI AND THE CLAVIERÜBUNG III” is the title of Sunday morning’s “The Bach Hour” on WGBH affiliate WCRB. The show aired on March 1 at 6 a.m. If you missed it, you can still listen to it on the Bach Hour's Website below:

A conversation with Bálint Karosi and WCRB’s Brian McCreath about Bach’s
Clavierübung, Part III
Trio Sonata in G, BWV 1038 – Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Berlin Baroque Soloists
Prelude in E-flat, BWV 552/1 – Bálint Karosi, organ
Two chorale settings of “Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot” by Johann Hermann Schein and Michael Praetorius with Canto Armonico, followed by Bach’s organ settings with Bálint Karosi
Two chorale settings of “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” by Johann Hermann Schein with Canto Armonico, followed by Bach’s organ settings with Bálint Karosi
Fugue in E-flat, BWV 552/2 – Bálint Karosi, organ
Learn from Bálint how Bach paid his bills (who knew?) and there’s extra credit for anyone who can pronounce Clavierübung after listening to the program!–WCRB-803/episodes/Balint-Karosi-and-the-Clavierbung-III-60143

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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Clavierübung III Recording in the Hungarian press

My new CD recording of the Clavierübung III, released by Hungaroton, Spring 2014, has  been critically acclaimed by Hungarian CD critics  on Nov. 9, 2014, on the Bartok Radio's Kritius Fullel. It has also been praised by  Hungary's Gramafon Magazine:

" [Balint Karosi] plays with self-understood naturalness, without trying to emphasize a sacred pathos."
-- Gramafon

Széchényi_Gramofon 001

Magyar Madness with BMOP

I am finishing my orchestral piece for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project for a concert on January 24, 2015 at Jordan Hall.

AAAL 2014 Award

Happy to announce that I am one of the sixteen composers, who received one of the American Academy of Arts and Letters annual awards.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters has announced the sixteen recipients of this year’s awards in music, which total $175,000.

Arts and Letters Awards in Music

Kati Agócs, Daron Hagen, Anthony Korf, and Marjorie Merryman will each receive a $7500 Arts and Letters Award in Music, which honors outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledges the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice. Each will receive an additional $7500 toward the recording of one work.

Walter Hinrichsen Award

Scott Wheeler will receive the Walter Hinrichsen Award for the publication of a work by a gifted composer. This award was established by the C. F. Peters Corporation, music publishers, in 1984.

Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Prize

Mikael Karlsson will receive the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Prize of $10,000 for an exceptional mid-career composer.

Goddard Lieberson Fellowships

Two Goddard Lieberson Fellowships of $15,000, endowed in 1978 by the CBS Foundation, are given to mid-career composers of exceptional gifts. This year they will go to A. J. McCaffrey and Ju Ri Seo.

Charles Ives Fellowships

Harmony Ives, the widow of Charles Ives, bequeathed to the academy the royalties of Charles Ives’s music, which has enabled the academy to give the Ives awards in composition since 1970. Two Charles Ives Fellowships, of $15,000 each, will be awarded to Nathan Shields and Dan Tepfer.

Charles Ives Scholarships

William David Cooper, David Kirkland Garner, Bálint Karosi, Jeremy Podgursky, Daniel Schlosberg, and Nina C. Young will receive Charles Ives Scholarships of $7500, given to composition students of great promise.

The winners were selected by a committee of academy members: Joan Tower (chairman), Samuel Adler, Martin Bresnick, Mario Davidovsky, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke, Tania León, and Tobias Picker. Candidates for music awards are nominated by the 250 members of the academy.

The awards will be presented at the academy’s annual ceremonial in May.

Click here for more info.

The Final Wait

I have started working a funeral cantata for solo alto and strings, for which I have commissioned a poet from the Yale Divinity School (Audrey Fernandez-Fraser) to write the text. I am really excited to set her beautiful text to music for the Yale Baroque Ensemble, with the help and support of Robert Mealey, artistic  director. The performance will take place on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at Sprague Hall.

The Final Wait


My new orchestra piece is now available for listening!

Dancescapes is a set of four dances four symphony orchestra. It is my attempt to compose music that is a mixture of the great 20th-century American orchestral tradition and my Hungarian roots, owing much to folk music and the music of Bartók.  I composed this piece for a performance by the Yale Philharmonia Orchestra as part of my doctoral degree in composition at the Yale school of music during the summer of 2013, at the same time when I was working on “Words of Beginning.” Dancescapes would work well as a score for ballet or modern dance. The first performance took place at Woolsey Hall on December 12, 2013 by the Yale Philharmonia, conducted by Jonathan Brandani. I dedicated Dancescapes to my parents, who have given me so much support, encouragement and love in my life.

The piece opens with a flute solo quoting the main theme of the first dance, followed by lyrical horn passages and the second dance, with chromatic string and wind passages over an ostinato bass.

The middle section is in ABA form, featuring a second lyrical theme over a harp, vibraphone and string accompaniment. The contrasting B section contains aleatoric passages, where the orchestra players are asked to transpose and modify their parts in a controlled improvisatory section:

The following section is an exciting dance in compound meter, owing much to my Hungarian background, ending with a recap of the first dance followed by a brief climax and coda.

Entire piece:


Dear Friends! My new orchestra piece "Dancescapes" is premiered by the Yale Philharmonic tomorrow at Woolsey Hall at 8 p.m. My piece is the first on the program. If you are not in New Haven you can tune in following this link:

Dancescapes, a new Piece for Orchestra

Dancescapes is my third large-scale orchestral work next to my violin concerto and organ concerto, and the only one that does not require a soloist. I am particularly excited about the melodic content, the harmonic and rhythmic variety I have explored in this 13 minute-long piece.