Kile Smith

Classical Host

Kile Smith hosts the contemporary American music program Now Is the Time on Saturdays at 9 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, or teaching 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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Now Is the Time
8:06 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Textures on Now Is the Time

Different quartets evoke different textures on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 22nd at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Geology dominates Paul Lansky's Textures. It's for two pianists and two percussionists, and movement titles use words like striations, substrates, granite, and round-wound (makes me think of bass guitar strings). Hammering keyboards and lyrical mallets comprise this unusual foursome.

Philip Glass composed a string quartet, his fourth, in memory of the artist Brian Buczak, who died in 1987, and was a friend. The lilting, pulsing music carries a smooth sadness as its predominant Glassian texture; the great quartet Kronos brings this to us to close the program.

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Now Is the Time
10:55 am
Sat November 15, 2014

Post-modern Homages

Post-modern Homages, from Stephen Hartke's CD The Horse with the Lavender Eye

Composers praise composers on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 15th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Randall Woolf re-forms, with a string quartet, the phrasings of another century in Franz Schubert, and for Zeitgeist's 30th Anniversary, Carol Barnett wrote Z=30; Schumann's Excellent Extension (with a tip of the hat to Terry Riley).

Stephen Hartke salutes Rochberg, Satie, Enrique Oswald, and Donald Crockett in selections from his Post-modern Homages for piano. For computerized sounds is Reginald Bain's Chaos Game (for Nancarrow), honoring the early, groundbreaking work of Conlon Nancarrow. In Serenata No. 1, Brian Banks imagines the legacies of Henry Sapoznik, Arturo Marquez, and two Harrisons, Lou and George. And cellist Maya Beiser rips into Little Wing of Jimi Hendrix, arranged by Evan Ziporyn.

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Now Is the Time
11:37 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Into the Brightening Air

A string quartet and a solo cello breathe on Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 8th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Michael Hersch wrote the Sonata No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello when he was all of 23 years old, and already, his dark, simple lines reached through the air to brilliance. The inner virtuosity of emotional movement looms over this music.

Simplicity and small steps also mesmerize within the writing of Lois V Vierk. Into the Brightening Air, inspired by Yeats and dedicated to composer/pianist Mel Powell, takes a quartet of strings on an unexpected journey past familiar landscapes. The windows are down and the wind in our face both soothes and surprises.

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Now Is the Time
5:59 am
Sat November 1, 2014

Preludes and Remembering Stephen Paulus

Lara Downes, Reform, including the music of Stephen Paulus

We remember Stephen Paulus in this rebroadcast, from last spring, of Now Is the Time, Saturday, November 1st at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Paulus, who died on October 19th (see our remembrance here), wrote comfortably in every genre; we start the program with a short, sassy work played by pianist Lara Downes, his Prelude No. 3: Sprightly. Then 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.

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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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
1:47 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

The Taste of Bach and Harpsichords

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday Nov. 1st, 2014, 5-6 pm... Let’s face it, the harpsichord is an acquired taste. In popular culture, never helpful for appreciating the fine or unusual, the harpsichord is shorthand for—at best—stuffy, rich, out-of-touch, let-them-eat-cake. That’s at best. At worst, it’s sinister. And that doesn’t even count Lurch on The Addams Family.

The harpsichord is a beautiful instrument that has often been misapplied. It has a delicate, refined sound, yet can help to keep the players onstage together. Indeed, before we stood conductors on their feet in front of everyone, they were often in the middle of the orchestra, seated at and playing the harpsichord.

But placing that plucked keyboard in a large hall with many instruments will bury the sound. We are left to wonder: If we can’t hear it, why is it there? The answer, of course, is that it shouldn’t be. Even large harpsichords need smallish rooms and a modicum of company. Then we can really hear its capacity for nuance and, yes, power.
 

Johann Sebastian Bach understood this, as he did so many things, and basically invented the harpsichord concerto, mostly for concerts at the local coffee house, Zimmermann’s. But calling them concerts doesn’t quite catch the flavor. Bach ran (along with the music in four churches, a school, and much else in Leipzig) the Collegium Musicum, a student musical group. Bach’s Coffee Cantata, the closest thing to an opera he ever wrote, was probably written for performance here.

Zimmermann’s had two rooms, the largest, about 26’ x 32’, the size of a very ample living room. This is where the harpsichord concertos of Bach were premiered. Newer recordings of Bach take this to heart. We can hear the tang of the strings, the colors of the instruments, the roar of crescendos as cataracts of notes tumble up and down the keyboard.

Since the harpsichord has no sustain pedal like the piano, and since the inner mechanism plucks the strings with the same force regardless of how hard one hits the keys, the only way to make it louder is literally to play more notes at the same time. Listen for this in Bach’s writing, and in these wonderful performances.

Bach cobbled together most of his harpsichord concertos from other works, rewriting other solo concertos into this format. Because some of his sons were still living at home and were excellent keyboardists, they may have played on some of these. The triple concerto (solo harpsichord, flute, and violin with string accompaniment) features the keyboard the most. The two-harpsichord concerto may be the only one that began life as an actual harpsichord piece. For the concerto of a quartet of harpsichords, Bach went not to his own music, but to Vivaldi’s, which he loved and from which he learned so much. It’s a Baroque battle of the bands, with the players trading arpeggios back and forth.

It’s easy to imagine the sheer fun Bach had writing and playing these at Zimmermann’s, alongside students, his sons, and a willing audience of coffee drinkers eager to hear the latest from the Leipzig Kantor. Now there’s a taste we’re happy to acquire.

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Now Is the Time
11:01 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Pre-Halloween Suites

Let's have suites before Halloween on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 25th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. A Prelude, Sarabande, Burlesca, and Gigue make up the Partita (just another name for suite) for piano by Anthony Iannaccone. Guitarist David Starobin loves playing the music of Paul Lansky for, besides being a wonderful composer, Lansky also plays the guitar and knows the instrument very well. The recipe for his Semi-Suite includes Putative Prelude, Aimless Air, Crooked Courante, Shameless Sarabande, Awkward Allemande, and Partly Pavane.

Philadelphia composer Harold Boatrite's Lyric Suite for Piano is from his piano and harpsichord CD of a few years back, Sonatas & Suites. Andy Teirstein boils down a work for multiple strings, written for an outdoor procession, to a string quartet, for the final work on our program, simply, Suite.

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Music Features
5:30 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

My Memories of Composer Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus

It has to be 30 years ago now; I was sitting in a cafe with composers Jennifer Higdon, Rob Maggio, Sylvia Glickman, and a fellow in town from Minnesota, who was advising us on a composer organization start-up. He was already well-known in composer circles as the one who, with Libby Larsen, began in Minnesota what became the largest composer service organization in the world, the American Composers Forum. 

His name was Stephen Paulus. He died at age 65 on Sunday, October 19th. He had suffered a debilitating stroke on July 4th, 2013, saddening musicians and audiences everywhere. Now we mourn.

At that table, his enthusiasm and positive energy were contagious, but I remember most of all his kindness. His music reflects that, too. A few months ago I programmed a short work, his Prelude No. 3 for piano, on WRTI's contemporary American music program Now Is the Time. "Sprightly" is Paulus's subtitle, and it encapsulates what I always hear in his music—be it choral, orchestral, operatic. From his more than 500 works, what I always hear is simplicity (even with complicated materials) and melodic openness.

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Now Is the Time
11:56 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Soliloquy on Now Is the Time

It's one voice among all on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 11th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Two concertos—the ultimate one vs. many format—bookend a lone flute on this week's program. Meditation and Caprice are the two movements of the engaging, mesmerizing Violin Concerto by Kevin Puts.

Robert Baksa's Soliloquy from 1997, and from a CD of his flute music, is subtitled "Krishna's Song," as the Hindu deity is often pictured playing the flute. The energetic and moody Clarinet Concerto of Paul Moravec features soloist David Krakauer. Moravec wrote this while he was in residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.

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Now Is the Time
12:07 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Uncovered and More on Now Is the Time

Classical covers pop on Now Is the Time, Saturday, October 4th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Cellist Maya Beiser's new CD Uncovered ranges over the landscape of hits with aggressive yet nuanced playing. The arrangements are by composer Evan Ziporyn; Led Zeppelin's Kashmir and Nirvana's Lithium get a workout here. Michael Daugherty brings a high-powered wind band to the house for Motown Metal.

The string quartet has its say in two works. Paul Schoenfeld imagined, in Four Music Videos, what MTV was all about, having admitted he'd never watched it, and creates magic. Jeremy Cohen's arrangement of Duke Ellington's The Mooche for his Quartet San Francisco makes you feel that the Duke wrote this just for them. Those slinky chords are so etched in our minds, all composers must wish they'd thought of them first.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
4:22 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Bach Old and New

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, Oct. 4th, 5 to 6 pm. Every generation comes up with new ways to perform Johann Sebastian Bach. This tells us two things. One: Performance practice is as vital and relevant as ever. Rather than imagining forgotten professors paging through dusty tomes, we might envision performers kicking up dust with brilliant concerts of so-old-it’s-new repertoire.

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