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.

Ways To Connect

The composer Gustav Mahler once said, “A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” If that is so, then Mahler’s second symphony, the “Resurrection,” is bigger, even, than that. 

Mahler had already tackled big questions in an orchestral work, called Funeral Rites. He played it on the piano for Hans von Bülow, and the conductor said that it made Wagner's Tristan und Isolde sound like Haydn. Mahler turned Funeral Rites into the first movement of his Resurrection symphony.

Alleluia is by far Randall Thompson’s best-known work; he is known overwhelmingly for his choral music, such as Frostiana and The Peaceable Kingdom. But Thompson also composed three symphonies, so we’ll get to know his symphonic writing on this Discoveries program.

From two works of his that are in the Fleisher Collection, we’ll hear the outer movements of Symphony No. 1 and all of Symphony No. 2. Both were composed early in his career, within a two-year span.

A caprice may be deeper than we think on Now Is the Time, Saturday, July 18th at 9 pm. Jeremy Gill’s just-released Capriccio with the Parker String Quartet is, at first glance, a series of technical exercises. But the pizzicatos, slides, duets, trios, and sound-painting are only the vehicles for deep music-making. We have time on the show for most, but not all of, Capriccio, and it’s an exhilarating ride.

This week we celebrate the birthday of the English composer Gerald Finzi, who was born July 14th, 1901 and died in 1956. His short life was filled with sorrow, but also with beauty—in his help for others, and in his music.

When Gerald Finzi was seven, his father died. Three brothers died while he was still young. His first composition teacher, who was very encouraging and who said that Finzi was shy but “full of poetry,” was killed in World War I.

This week in July of 1940, one of the most loved and most sung choral works - written by a composer living in Philadelphia - was premiered in western Massachusetts. But Randall Thompson’s Alleluia is almost the opposite of an “alleluia.”

From Randall Thompson, the composer who was then the Director of the Curtis Institute of Music, conductor Serge Koussevitzky requested a loud and festive choral fanfare. It was to open the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.

On this month’s Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday, July 4th, 5-6 pm, we meet the new curator, Gary Galván. He’s worked at the Collection since 2005 on research and special projects, but this year took over the reins as the seventh curator of the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance material. Galván will discuss the composers on the program and give us an idea of some of his plans for the future of the Collection.

In Opera Philadelphia's Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, composer Daniel Schnyder illuminates the life of the groundbreaking jazz saxophonist. But, as WRTI’s Kile Smith reports, while the music is all original, the composer couldn’t help slipping in just a taste of Parker for the opera’s lead tenor, Lawrence Brownlee.
 

What composer Daniel Schnyder did not want to write in his opera about the great Charlie Parker was warmed-over bebop. His opera, Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, is original through and through.

We are all connected on Now Is the Time, Saturday, June 20th at 9 pm. We just learned that composer Brian Fennelly passed away on Wednesday; his loving celebration of his granddaughter was already programmed for this week’s broadcast, so we will close our look at contemporary American music on a bittersweet note with that work, Fennelly’s “Sigol” for Strings.

I never met him, but going back a few years, to my time at the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music, I had infrequent, but memorable, correspondence with Brian Fennelly. He was always warm, always sincere, and always interested in what I was doing. He was humble and kind, and when I asked him to send me some of his music for Now Is the Time, I discovered, as many already had, a composer of deep feeling and care.

Opening the program, Paul Lansky’s Threads takes the form of a Bach cantata, but for percussion quartet, mixing sonorities in ever-delightful ways. Michael Colquhon performs on flute his own You Can’t Get There From Here, and Martin Rokeach in North Beach Rhapsody sends us a postcard of San Francisco and the energy that connects all of us, no matter where we live. May music continue to connect us all.

Before Richard Strauss, before Richard Wagner, more than Hansel and Gretel, and even more than Mozart, the most German opera is, and always will be, Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber.

The Freeshooter or The Marksman tells the story of Max, a man so in love with Agatha that he sells his soul—almost. To win her hand he must first win a shooting match, accepting an offer for magic bullets, bullets that cannot miss. They are forged in the deep forest by Samiel, the personification of Evil.

Erik Satie

In June of 1912, Igor Stravinsky premiered the piano version of his daring new work The Rite of Spring, a year before its orchestral unveiling. His piano-playing partner was none other than Claude Debussy. Classical music has never been the same since the public first heard it.
 

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