Kile Smith http://wrti.org en Voices from the Heartland http://wrti.org/post/voices-heartland <p>New music hears old tunes on <strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, July 26th at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. George Crumb has a way—like no one else—of investing the simplest gesture with mystery and grandeur. He fills his seventh American Song Book, <em>Voices from the Heartland</em>, with these touches of wonder assembled in these hymns, spirituals, folk songs, and American Indian chants. Soprano Ann Crumb and baritone Patrick Mason are accompanied by Orchestra 2001, conducted by James Freeman.<br /><br />Beginning the show, there's just time enough to hear a movement from David Amram's Violin Concerto. His <em>Celtic Rondo</em> breathes the air of long ago from another place, or maybe he hears the spirits of ancestors from any place. Charles Castleman is the soloist.<br /> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:55:23 +0000 Kile Smith 7518 at http://wrti.org Voices from the Heartland This Floating World http://wrti.org/post/floating-world <p>Islands and dances and flutes seem to float&nbsp;on&nbsp;<strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, July 19th&nbsp;at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and&nbsp;WRTI-HD2. Haiku of Basho inspired Edie Hill's <em>This Floating World</em>&nbsp;for solo flute; Elena Ruehr's <em>The Law of Floating Objects</em>&nbsp;is for one flutist&nbsp;multiplied many times. An excerpt from <em>A Floating Island</em> is Matthew Greenbaum's chamber opera&nbsp;on an episode from <em>Gulliver's Travels</em> by Jonathan Swift, where some are so lost in thought&nbsp;they don't see what's right in front of them.<br /><br />The Habanera makes us think of Cuba and islands (okay, it's a stretch), and we find one in <em>5 Pages from John's Book of Alleged Dances</em> by John Adams. Robert Ackerman improvises <em>Havana Special</em>, clarinet and bass, and there's just enough time for an Ackerman encore, <em>Scena</em>.<br /> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:59:00 +0000 Kile Smith 7492 at http://wrti.org This Floating World Our Town Holidays with Ives and Copland http://wrti.org/post/our-town-holidays-ives-and-copland <p>In America, small-town New England holds our attention. Whoever we are, it’s our town. The paper’s delivered, there’s gossip at the kitchen table, children are born, children go to school, a choir sings, there’s marriage, there’s death. It’s just life—or perhaps life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the perfect description of this American scene, for American it is, and <em>Our Town</em>, the Thornton Wilder play, captures it perfectly.<br /><br /><em>Our Town</em> hit Broadway in 1938 and was an immediate success. Wilder won a second Pulitzer for it (his 1927 novel <em>The Bridge of San Luis Rey</em> was his first), and Universal Pictures made it into a film two years later. They signed the red-hot classical composer Aaron Copland to write the score. His biggest triumphs were yet to come—<em>Appalachian Spring</em>, <em>Rodeo</em>, <em>A Lincoln Portrait</em>—but <em>Billy the Kid</em> and <em>El Salón México</em> had already put him on the map. We often don’t think of Copland as a film composer, but with <em>The Red Pony</em> to go along with <em>Our Town</em> and others, he’s one of the best.</p><p></p><p>Copland fills the poignancy and the matter-of-factness of Wilder’s play. Life-affirming yet without triumphing, the music sings lightly but is warmed by coals that glow from deep emotions. Aaron Copland, born and raised in Brooklyn and trained in Paris, could nevertheless deliver a western prairie, eastern mountains, or a New England town. He has defined “American composer” in the popular imagination better than anyone else.<br /><br />Though Charles Ives celebrated his native New England over and over in his music, much of it never found the light of day, let alone the ears of a concert-going public, until decades after its creation. The very title of today’s work is a conundrum. Is it <em>Holidays</em>, <em>Holiday Symphony</em>, <em>Holidays Symphony</em>, <em>Four New England Holidays</em>, or <em>A Symphony: New England Holidays</em>? His disinterest in a composer’s career often left the details to others.<br /><br />From the squared phrases of marching bands to flying shrieks of disharmony, from church hymns to layered and crashing sonic sculptures, the music of Ives is like a boy at a parade. He <em>knew</em> the sound of two bands playing on intersecting streets just as vividly as he had felt the giddiness of holding an ice cream cone on a summer afternoon or the elation of fireworks at night. All we have to be is that boy, and we’ll get Ives in a flash.<br /><br />The holidays in this work are in chronological order: Washington’s Birthday, Decoration (now Memorial) Day, The Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. The last one he composed first, starting in 1887, as organ music for a Thanksgiving service. He revised and completed it by 1904. Washington’s Birthday he began in 1909, finishing it in 1913, the same year he finished The Fourth of July. Decoration Day is from 1912 (unpublished until 1989).<br /><br />To picture New England at the very time Ives was composing the <em>Holidays Symphony</em>, picture <em>Our Town</em>. It takes place in fictional Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire between 1901 and 1913. Maybe Wilder’s play and Copland’s music are the grown-up, considered look at the small American town, with no illusions but with all love. Ives’s <em>Symphony</em> is the boy’s look, wide-eyed. With that love and with those eyes, wherever we’re from, this is our town.</p><p> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 09:50:00 +0000 Kile Smith 7460 at http://wrti.org Our Town Holidays with Ives and Copland A Summer's Day http://wrti.org/post/summers-day <p>Celebrate the solstice on <strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, June 21st at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. <em>Into Light</em> is Marilyn Shrude's orchestral paean to youth and possibility, and Lewis Spratlan outlines an entire day of activity—both fun and contemplative—ending with a starry night, in <em>A Summer's Day</em>. Looking at the evening sky reflected in Italy's Lake Como, Laura Elise Schwendinger asks <em>C’è la Luna Questa Sera?</em> ("is there a moon tonight?").<br /><br />As Monet painted the same scene in different light (including his Rouen Cathedral series from 1892-1893), Jennifer Higdon used materials from her <em>blue cathedral</em> in different ways in <em>Light Refracted</em> for clarinet, string trio, and piano. One of Brian Dykstra's piano rags is the deliciously floating <em>Sweet Daydreams</em>, and in <em>light moving</em>, David Lang provides an encore for Hilary Hahn.<br /> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 16:52:01 +0000 Kile Smith 7437 at http://wrti.org A Summer's Day Miniatures on Now Is the Time http://wrti.org/post/miniatures-now-time <p>Miniatures are big on <strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, June 14th at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. The <em>Pastiche</em> of John Biggs is a riot of tunes you already know, skillfully arranged, while <em>Miniatures</em> are original offerings from Louis Anthony deLise's brand-new CD for flute and piano. A concertino is a small concerto, but Harold Schiffman's, for oboe, is the biggest work on the program and a lyrical treat.<br /> Sat, 14 Jun 2014 20:38:31 +0000 Kile Smith 7408 at http://wrti.org Miniatures on Now Is the Time Songs With and Without Words http://wrti.org/post/songs-and-without-words <p>Singing can be vocal or instrumental on <strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, June 7th at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. A tribute to a family, carved in cemetery marble, is the choral <em>Notturno in Weiss</em> (Nocturne in White) by Robert Moran. Joseph Hallman's <em>Three Poems of Jessica Hornik</em>&nbsp;uses voice with an expanded chamber ensemble, while Anthony Iannaccone selects a solo piano for his <em>Song without Words</em>.<br /><br />An Uruguayan legend or <em>Leyenda</em> comes from Sergio Cervetti for voice and orchestra, and from her ten-year-old daughter's poem about a Cape Cod berry-picking excursion, Elena Ruehr creates the all-instrumental <em>Blackberries</em>.<br /> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 14:12:19 +0000 Kile Smith 7386 at http://wrti.org Songs With and Without Words Opening and Closing Centuries: Prokofiev, Reger http://wrti.org/post/opening-and-closing-centuries-prokofiev-reger <p><strong>On Discoveries from the Fleisher&nbsp;Collection, Saturday, 5 to 6 pm.</strong> For convenience, we divide time with round numbers and mark the beginnings of eras with an 800 or 1600 or 1900. But that convenience may hide real divisions, those watershed moments before which something ends and after which something begins.<br /><br />One hundred years ago, June 1914 marked the end of the world as it had been known, with the shooting of an archduke precipitating the First World War. Then, the Russian Revolution of 1917 began much of what we know as the 20th Century. This ridge of history may be symbolized by two familiar works, heard with new ears.<br /><br />In his early twenties and at the cusp of a brilliant career, Sergei Prokofiev outdid himself in 1917. He began a cantata and the Third Piano Concerto, and completed, along with this Violin Concerto No. 1, major piano works and the evergreen First Symphony, called the “Classical.” But premieres were canceled because of the upheaval of the Revolution. The violin concerto, the first of two, would not be performed until 1923.<br /><br />Feeling artistically stymied, Prokofiev left Russia for America to try to make his way as a composer, performer, and conductor: to make a living, in other words. He received permission from a People’s Commissar, even though he was told that, as a “revolutionary” composer, he should remain with the Revolution. He would indeed return to his country, renamed the Soviet Union, as one of the most famous composers in the world, but not until 1936, after years in Paris.</p><p>If Prokofiev looks forward, Max Reger looks back, which even his most fervent admirers grant. He was a contrapuntalist when harmony was—in any of its clothes—king. While Debussy invented evanescent wisps of sound, while Schoenberg forged new, gray girders of pitches from the lava of Wagner’s <em>Götterdämmerung</em>, Reger composed interlocking lines of relentless notes that recalled Bach. In a world of uncertainty Max Reger wrote fugues.<br /><br />Like Bach, and like Bruckner and Messiaen, composers of earlier and later generations whom we still don’t know what to make of, Reger was an organist. His fugues and toccatas and variations are scarcely known today except by cognoscenti, as are his many songs, choral works, and other pieces. This is regrettable. The mighty <em>Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart</em> has often been performed, but not as much now as in the recent past.<br /><br />The theme is from a Mozart piano sonata and the music is redolent of Brahms, his model, with Beethoven, of “absolute” music, or music that need not refer to any art outside itself. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms: Reger inhaled them all and breathed out, in a relatively short time, a volume of work that is remarkable. In 1914 he wrote the <em>Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart</em>; in 1915 it was premiered; in 1916, at the age of 43, he would be dead. It was almost as if he was not supposed to see 1917.<br /><br /> Thu, 05 Jun 2014 19:10:44 +0000 Kile Smith 7382 at http://wrti.org Opening and Closing Centuries: Prokofiev, Reger Notes to Self http://wrti.org/post/notes-self <p>Reaching inside helps to explain what surrounds us on <strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 31st at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. The poet and resistance fighter Avrom Sutzkever wrote the powerful words David Garner sets in <em>Vilna Poems</em>, for voice, clarinet, cello (Matt Haimovitz here), and piano. Paul Lansky, recently retired from a stellar career at Princeton, honors teachers, friends, and influences in <em>Notes to Self</em> for piano. Echoing throughout are George Perle, Milton Babbitt, Stravinsky, and Ravel, who moderates a conversation between Hindemith and Messiaen!<br /><br />The blues often come around when we look inside, so we take a turn there for the final work. But even the blues can be light blue. Jazz subtle and not-so infuses <em>Three Blues for Saxophone Quartet</em> by Charles Ruggiero.<br /> Fri, 30 May 2014 16:19:17 +0000 Kile Smith 7364 at http://wrti.org Notes to Self Vintage on Now Is the Time http://wrti.org/post/vintage-now-time <p>It's a blast from the past on <strong>Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 24th at 9 pm</strong> at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. David Del Tredici threw over his cutting-edge training in 12-tone music for his aggressively tonal "Alice" pieces, works based on <em>Alice in Wonderland</em>. In looking back, you might say, he never looked back from then on; some have called him the first neo-Romantic. <em>Vintage Alice</em> is a chamber opera for one singer, and it's delightfully quirky, just like Lewis Carroll.<br /><br />Physicist Richard Feynman was known for his humor as much as his smarts; Michael Gandolfi captures both in the large choral/orchestral work <em>Q.E.D.: Engaging Richard Feynman</em>. From Hilary Hahn's CD of encores is <em>Ford's Farm</em> by Mason Bates. We see the horse &amp; buggy giving way to the first automobile in this fun, fiddling excursion: Call it a short ride in slower machines.<br /> Fri, 23 May 2014 14:07:44 +0000 Kile Smith 7333 at http://wrti.org Vintage on Now Is the Time Matthew Levy: People's Emergency Center http://wrti.org/post/matthew-levy-peoples-emergency-center <p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;">WRTI's</span><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Kile</span><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;">&nbsp;Smith, host of&nbsp;</span><a href="http://wrti.org/programs/now-time" style="font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;"><strong>Now Is the Time</strong></a><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Georgia, Times, serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;">, recommends...</span></p><p>Saxophonist and Prism Quartet founder Matthew Levy has spent his career getting other composers played; now the spotlight's on him in a new CD, and what a brilliance it reveals.<br /><br />Call&nbsp;the Prism Saxophone Quartet&nbsp;contemporary-classical, call them avant-jazz, even call them omnivorous, but whatever you call them, they've been setting the gold standard for three decades. 2014 is in fact their 30th anniversary, and in that time, while centered in Philadelphia, they've been everywhere, stretching styles while inhabiting classical, jazz, world, and rock idioms.<br /><br />Prism has commissioned more than 150 works, but in <strong>People's Emergency Center</strong> (Innova) they turn the entire two-disc set over to Matthew Levy.<br /><br />People's Emergency Center is the first movement of <em>Been There</em>, and is also the name of a shelter helping women and children in West Philadelphia. It and the second movement, Gymnopedie (the word Erik Satie coined for his most famous piece), are culled from Levy's music for a documentary about the shelter. The Prism four (Timothy McAllister, Taimur Sullivan, Zachary Shemon, and Levy), bass, drums, guitar, and former Prism member Tim Ries on soprano saxophone all create magic with swirling precision.<br /><br />Levy's voice is at once vernacular and otherworldly, steeped in jazz but living in—as Henry Cowell would have it—the whole world of music. <em>Serial Mood</em> seems to ponder that post-Schoenberg world of harmony, and in doing so reveals a tasty secret known to Dizzy Gillespie, Gunther Schuller, and a few other hep cats: If you play 12-tone music with a hard, swinging beat, it sounds for all the world like be-bop.<br /><br />That's one of the unexpected treats that Levy offers. Another is the overarching spirit of generosity—to the listener and to each player. All the music of his I've heard exhibits this. Whether it's rhythmically striking, sonically challenging, or a charming tune, it is genial music offered warmly to a real world filled with real people who want something good to hear. An excellent example is <em>Brown Eyes</em>, which here employs the whole band, but which Levy first had played in public in a smaller version. The occasion of the premiere? His wedding.</p><p><span style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">[</span><em style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">Been There</em><span style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;and&nbsp;</span><em style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">Brown Eyes</em><span style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;were featured on&nbsp;</span><a data-mce-="" href="http://kilesmith.com/2014/05/09/guardian-angel-on-now-is-the-time/" style="color: rgb(33, 117, 155); outline: none; font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">Now Is the Time</a><span style="color: rgb(68, 68, 68); font-family: 'Open Sans', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">, May 10, 2014.]</span></p><p> Thu, 22 May 2014 16:54:07 +0000 Kile Smith 7324 at http://wrti.org Matthew Levy: People's Emergency Center