Review: Midwinter Conclave Concert: 1-17-10, Sarasota, FL

This Hungarian born Organist appeared in concert in Sarasota, in connection with a regional gathering of the American Guild of Organists. In addition to traveling the world giving concerts, Mr. Karosi is also Organist and director of music at a Lutheran Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

I had ordered my ticket ahead of time, and arrived at the church at five-thirty - in order to be first in line when the doors opened at six. I had brought a book to read, and settled down on a bench under the stand of oak trees in front of the church.

When the doors opened, I was among the first two or three people to enter. I picked up my ticket, which was being held for me, and headed into the sanctuary. Sizing up the layout of the church, I selected a seat in the front pew, which would give me a view of the organist’s feet and at least his right hand - from perhaps a dozen feet away. The organ console in the church is moveable, and for the concert it had been placed between the choir pews at the head of the steps leading up to the altar. See URL.

The first picture on the web page shows the console situated for a concert. The last picture shows the console in its normal position - more or less out of sight behind the choir pews on the left-hand side. The console is unusual in that the three expression pedals - the pedals immediately above the pedal clavier - are of the same wood as the console. In most consoles, those pedals are covered with a thin piece of rubber or rubberized material - for traction.

There was a young man sitting at the console, slowly playing a scale on one of the stops, one note at a time. Someone was in one of the organ chambers, doing some last minute tuning on one of the ranks of pipes. From the back, this young guy looked for all the world like a skinny teenager - somebody’s favorite student, I thought. Tuning finished, he slipped off the bench and left the chancel area. I noted that he was a bit older than a teenager, but thought nothing of it.

Finally, the appointed time came, and the resident organist/choirmaster, Dr. Ann Stephenson-Moe went to the pulpit to welcome those present (the church was packed) and introduce the artist. To my surprise, the artist was the skinny teenager who had been working with the tuner. Mr. Karosi is 30 or 31, and looks much younger. This image is enhanced by his slight build.

The first selection was the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) by Bach, arranged for organ by Max Reger. Mr. Karosi’s feet were very busy during this lengthy piece. I don’t think I have ever seen an organist make such effective and frequent use of the toe pistons as he did.

Watching this guy play, I noticed that either his finger or more often, his foot, selected different pistons very often, ie., every few seconds during some passages. It was as fascinating to watch as it was to listen.

There were only three selections on the first half of the program - well, one of them was a set of three studies by Schumann - but they took almost an hour to play.

The second half of the program was devoted to a performance of the Suite, Op. 5, by Maurice Durufle. The final section (the Toccata) of the suite is widely regarded as one of the most difficult pieces to play in all of the organ literature. There are more notes on the page than one would think possible, and at times, the hands are playing in one time signature while the feet are in a different (and not easily compatible) time.

The applause was long and generous, but he did not favor us with an encore - who could blame him, he must have been exhausted.