Kile Smith

Classical Host

Kile Smith hosts the contemporary American music program Now Is the Time on Sundays at 10 pm on HD-2 and the classical stream, and co-hosts Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on the first Saturday of every month at 5 pm with Jack Moore. Discoveries takes a fresh look at music in the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where Kile was curator for 18 years. He also fills in as an on-air classical host.
 
When he's not producing podcasts of CD reviews for WRTI, writing for the Broad Street Review, teaching music history at Cairn University, music notation at Temple University, or private composition, Kile is busy composing orchestral, choral, chamber, and liturgical works. His music is praised by critics and audiences for its emotional power, direct appeal, and strong voice. Gramophone magazine calls his Vespers "spectacular," possessing "sparkling beauty." The Philadelphia Inquirer describes his music as "breathtaking."
 
He's composed for The Crossing, Piffaro, Orchestra 2001, and the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival. He's also written for David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Jennifer Montone, Philadelphia's principal horn, and Anne Martindale Williams, principal cello of the Pittsburgh Symphony. His website is kilesmith.com.

The weeds in his ever-widening gardens hint that he needs to get outside more.

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Donald Nally's Message to the Community
9:08 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

The Passing of The Crossing's Jeffrey Dinsmore

Tenor Jeffrey Dinsmore (1972-2014)

Jeffrey Dinsmore, co-founder and integral member of the Philadelphia choral ensemble The Crossing, died suddenly on April 14th in Los Angeles at age 42. The Crossing's conductor Donald Nally sent out this email message (below) about Jeff's passing. This is such a sad loss for Jeff's family and loved ones, and for everyone in Philadelphia's choral community.

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Now Is the Time
12:45 pm
Fri April 18, 2014

Passage Through a Dream

from Phillip Schroeder: Passage Through a Dream

We dream our lives and live our dreams on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 19th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Bright Sheng's romantic orchestral work China Dreams includes movements called The Stream Flows and The Three Gorges of the Long River. The tragedy of U.S. duplicity before and after the Battle of the Little Bighorn is the subject of We Need to Dream All This Again. Jerome Kitzke writes, "let's dance, and call it praying," as he honors the Native American building of a new life by dreaming that life.

Clarinet and four-hand piano unfold through digital delay in the evocative Passage Through a Dream by Phillip Schroeder, and Zeitgeist closes out the show with the humorous and quirky Getting Your Z's (Or Not) by Janika Vandervelde.

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Now Is the Time
3:45 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Jazz Dance Suite

Chicago a cappella

from Adam Berenson: Respectable People

We arrive at the corner of Jazz and Classical on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 12th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Chicago a cappella scats with Pleasure the music of Malcolm Dalglish, and solo piano tries out David Baker's Jazz Dance Suite as well as The Blue Hula by Tobias Picker.

John Musto's Divertimento for chamber ensemble has jazz and popular music overtones, but there's no mistaking the straight-ahead jazz worldview in three works by Philadelphia's Adam Berenson (even if he turns a corner here and there), from his brand-new 2-CD release Lumen. He's the pianist, along with bass and drums, in his Late 20th Century Stomp, Emotional Idiot, and Respectable People.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
4:33 pm
Sat April 5, 2014

Shakespeare's 450th

Poster for the 1964 film Hamlet, music by Dmitri Shostakovich

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, 5 to 6 pm, we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, who lived from 1564 to 1616, and well-apparell’d April (Romeo and Juliet, act 1, scene 2) being the very month he was born, approves our dip into Fleisher’s Shakespeare list once more.

The Free Library of Philadelphia is celebrating the Bard’s birth (find all the events here)—our whole city is much bound to him (Romeo and Juliet, 4, 2)—so we’re happy to join in the great coil (Much Ado About Nothing, 3, 3) with more of the many Fleisher works inspired by Shakespeare. To discover all such titles in the Fleisher Collection, only send an email to fleisher@freelibrary.org, and the list will fly swiftly to you with swallow’s wings (Richard III, 5, 2).

One year, 1861, saw the completion of two of the works on the program today. One is the Overture to King Lear by the Russian Mily Balakirev. That a composer known for energizing the Russian nationalist school of music would write a work connected with an English playwright is interesting. But Balakirev’s horizons were broader than the mere use of folksong.
 

Tellingly, he also supported the career of Tchaikovsky (when other Russian nationalists were grumbling about the European—meaning non-Russian, meaning German—sound of his music). Tchaikovsky, of course, loved Shakespeare. Balakirev’s early Overture to King Lear shows that the composer, although largely self-taught, knew the “European” orchestral style well. Even though he finished the work in 1861, he revised it 40 years later, after a long withdrawal from the music world.

It could hardly be more appropriate than to have music about the Danish Hamlet by the Danish Niels Gade, the most important musician in his country at the time. Nationalism was also in the air in Denmark, and early in his life Gade studied Danish folk traditions. But he went to Germany, taught and conducted there, and when he came back to Copenhagen his style was more international: this, in 1861, is the sound of Gade’s Hamlet.

Carried with more speed before the wind (The Comedy of Errors, 1, 1), we fly a century later to music from the 1964 film Hamlet by another Russian, Dmitri Shostakovich. He wrote prodigiously for the concert stage, but went back to film music often during his career. One reason for this was his on-again, off-again relationship with the Soviet regime. Many of his artist colleagues were imprisoned because of putative sins against the government, some were killed, and for most of his life Shostakovich was haunted by the fear of the knock on the door in the middle of the night.

But film music was an approved outlet. Shostakovich’s sometimes-violent voice seems tamer on film, but hearing the music removed from the visual is a bright reminder of his genius. That Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, could release this for us, approves celebration of this day with shows (King Henry VIII, 4,1).

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Now Is the Time
11:25 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Preludes

Lara Downes, Reform, including the music of Stephen Paulus

from William Bland: Six Preludes

So done with March and feeling like a new start, we've got all preludes on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 5th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Stephen Paulus writes comfortably in every genre; we start the program with a short, sassy work played by pianist Lara Downes, his Prelude No. 3: Sprightly. Guitarist David Starobin and composer William Bland go way back to their school days. Starobin loves playing Bland's music, and we'll hear six of a projected cycle of 48 Preludes.

Then we return to the piano for the 12 Preludes of Bernard Rands, covering a wide landscape of emotional and tonal range. Included are two movements in memoriam of composer colleagues of Rands, Luciano Berio and Donald Martino.

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Now Is the Time
10:23 am
Fri March 28, 2014

An Exaltation of Larks

from Benjamin Beirs: Fluidity

Let the larks play! They sing us into spring on Now Is the Time, Saturday, March 29th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Jennifer Higdon considered "exaltation" not only to be a wonderful collective noun but also a pretty good title, so she wrote the romantic and soaring An Exaltation of Larks for string quartet. We get to hear, appropriately, the Lark Quartet in this recording.

Daniel Goode loves birds, too, and weaves examples of different thrushes into one mega-birdsong for an unusual orchestra in Tuba Thrush. Benjamin Beirs describes circles, whorls, and storms in Fluidity. It's for his instrument, the guitar, and is inspired by the paintings of Sunny Gibbons, who is his sister. Book-ending the program are two works—one for marimba, one for vibraphone—by Alvin Singleton. He titles them Argoru, which is the Ghanaian word meaning "to play."

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Now Is the Time
10:08 am
Fri March 21, 2014

First Leaves of Spring

from Brian Dykstra: Spring Beauties

It is spring, finally, we hope, we really do, on Now Is the Time, Saturday, March 22nd at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. It engenders all sorts of good thoughts as we consider Circling Permutations, a flute and double bass improvisation by Robert Ackerman, and a concert rag for piano, Spring Beauties, by Brian Dykstra. Always elegant, the music of Paul Chihara seems appropriate for our turn to the warmth; we’ll hear his String Trio.

Avner Dorman brings along his Azerbaijani Dance for piano, and if you feel like a play on words, David Gunn’s always good for that, so a Missing Inn March could fit the bill this month. New music for old instruments symbolize a change of seasons; Will Ayton’s Songs of the British Isles is for the consort of viols, Parthenia. And in a similar vein, Dick Hensold breaks out his Northumbrian pipes for First Leaves of Spring.

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Now Is the Time
12:17 am
Fri March 14, 2014

The Ides of March

from ensemble, et al.: No Matter How Fast You Run Today, you will Never Catch up to Tomorrow

Julius Caesar had better watch his back on Now Is the Time, Saturday, March 15th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Brutus doesn't show up, but look out for the Silver Dagger of Stacy Garrop, an Appalachian somebody-done-somebody-wrong song. Eric Moe channels comic-book philosophy of "they said it couldn't be done" in Dead Elf Tugboat, and Andy Teirstein throws a bright light on fate with the narrated drama The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

Michael Daugherty's Dead Elvis romps through one corner of pop culture, and Dan Visconti's Lawless Airs through another, with a violin accompanied by a harp sounding like a broken guitar played by a cowboy. The percussion quartet ensemble, et al. cautions with No Matter How Fast You Run Today, you will Never Catch up to Tomorrow, Joshua Rosenblum offers a tonic to the Ides with Forward March, and Mark Zuckerman clears the air of fate with the canon, Grant Us Peace.

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Now Is the Time
11:27 am
Fri March 7, 2014

A Suite of Etudes

from Marc Mellits: Etude No. 2: Defensive Chili

We study etudes, "studies," on Now Is the Time, Saturday, March 8th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. No idea what Defensive Chili means, but this second etude for piano by Marc Mellits really sets the table. John McDonald comes in with two pieces for violin and piano, the poetic studies he calls Lily Events, and Lyrical Study.

Tomas Svoboda plays his own powerful music for piano, the Nine Etudes in Fugue Style, Vol. 2, and then we include an etude for an instrument not nearly as ubiquitous, the bassoon. John Steinmetz's Etude No. 5 is a lovely fantasy on the cowboy lament "Streets of Laredo," how about that?

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
7:29 am
Sat March 1, 2014

Any Friend of Brahms...

Standing: Ignaz Brüll, Anton Door, Josef Gänsbacher, Julius Epstein (Brüll's piano teacher), Robert Hausmann. Sitting: Gustav Walter, Eduard Hanslick, Johannes Brahms.

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday March 1st at 5 pm... It would be disconcerting enough to be at a party with Johannes Brahms. The famous composer was famously grumpy; some of classical music’s great one-liners come from him. When told after the premiere of his first symphony that it sounded like Beethoven, he snapped, “Any ass can see that.” He told a young composer, showing him a new work inspired, he said, by Beethoven, “It’s a good thing Beethoven was not inspired by you.” And then there’s Brahms leaving a gathering: “If there is anyone here whom I have not insulted, I beg his pardon.”

But imagine not only being at a party with Brahms, but being the host, being a composer yourself, and sitting next to him, playing a new Brahms work at the piano. If you can picture that, then you can picture being Ignaz Brüll.
 

Brüll lived in Vienna, the musical capital of Europe, almost his entire life. Although his father was a successful businessman, both he and Brüll’s mother were musicians, and encouraged their son’s musical gifts. He became a wonderful pianist, concertized, composed, married, and threw parties at his house, which became a meeting-place for his good friend Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Carl Goldmark, the critic Eduard Hanslick, and many other powerful musicians and music-lovers. Whenever Brahms (a good but not great pianist) wanted to air out—piano four-hands—a new piece, he called on Ignaz Brüll to sit next to him.
 

His biggest success was an opera, The Golden Cross, and he wrote a number of well-received works (Anton Rubinstein was a fan), including much piano music, three Serenades, and a Violin Concerto written for Johann Lauterbach (who has a “Lauterbach” Stradivarius named after him). The second Serenade was recorded using the score and parts in the Fleisher Collection. Fleisher also provided materials for the Violin Concerto project, but the story’s a bit more complicated.

Michael Laus, the conductor on this recording, found the full score in the Fleisher Collection. No parts existed. He also had access to the composer’s manuscript, and the violin/piano version (a piano-with-solo edition of a concerto is often published so that the soloist may study or even perform the work without an orchestra).

The challenge for Laus, though, was that the three sources sometimes disagreed. So he compared them, corrected obvious mistakes, and used the full and piano scores to illuminate confusing smudges in the manuscript. To make it even more interesting, Brüll had rewritten some of the solo for the piano version publication, so that was different. When all this was wrangled, Laus made a set of parts, and went to the recording studio.

Why has the music languished up to now? Partly it’s because that, even though Brahms himself called Brüll “an exceptional melodist,” and though The Golden Cross enjoyed multiple performances into the 1920s, his other works never struck fire. And partly it’s because he suffered the fate of other Jewish composers under the Nazis. He died in 1907 but his music was banned in the 1930s.

His fortunes, however, are changing now. These works and others are being recorded, thanks to Fleisher and the resourcefulness of dedicated musicians. Let’s imagine being at a party in Brüll’s house, with Brahms and all his other friends, enjoying each others’ company and music.

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