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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Now Is the Time
10:18 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Guardian Spirit

from Matthew Levy: Brown Eyes

Somebody's looking out for us on Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 10th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Genius loci is the spirit of a place, guardian spirit, or guardian angel; Frank Brickle's short work Genius Loci for mandolin and guitar is both whimsical and expansive. The Stone Tower looks over the artist colony of Yaddo, and is also the name of the first movement of Ned Rorem's Flute Concerto, written for Jeffrey Khaner, who performs it here.

Prism Saxophone Quartet founder Matthew Levy begins and ends the program with music from his new CD, People's Emergency Center. That's the name of a shelter helping women and children in West Philadelphia. It, too, is a first movement title, of Been There, music from a documentary about PEC. It's for Prism plus bass, drums, guitar, and another saxophone, as is Brown Eyes, which carries with it another great spirit. Matthew Levy had it performed at his wedding.

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Now Is the Time
10:33 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Gardening at Gropius House

from Neil Rolnick: Gardening at Gropius House

Two violin concertos breathe the air of outdoors on Now Is the Time, Saturday, May 3rd at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Neil Rolnick at Harvard was looking for extra work, and answered an ad for a gardener. It happened to be at the house of the world-famous Bauhaus architect, Walter Gropius. In Gardening at Gropius House, for chamber ensemble with computer, Rolnick combines his love of two things in art that he hopes are not in conflict: avant-garde modernism and a good tune.

Twilight, Midnight, Romance, and Dawn are some of the movement titles in Ned Rorem's Violin Concerto. He almost named the piece Concertino or Variations, since there is no real program behind the music. Still, that combination of lightness and gravity, which suffuses all of Rorem's works, breathes of spring, and of air.

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Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:59 am
Wed April 30, 2014

The Influence of Leó Weiner

"Leo Weiner, 1911" by Róbert Berény

On Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday May 3rd, 5-6 pm... In addition to being one of Hungary’s great 20th-century composers, Leó Weiner taught generations of world-famous musicians, including cellist János Starker and conductors Georg Solti, Antal Doráti, and a certain Jenö Blau, who went on to be known as Eugene Ormandy.

The unmistakable Eastern European flavor of Weiner’s music charms today as it ever did. Its beauty is of a different kind from Béla Bartók’s and Zoltán Kodály’s, two other Hungarians we’ve already met on Discoveries. Bartók and Kodály collected and transcribed folk music, and that source material came to affect their own original music. From the harmonies and rhythms of this hidden edge of Europe, Bartók, especially, created a musical language so personal that it stands apart from traditionalists and atonalists alike.

Weiner, however, was a romantic. He uses Hungarian tunes the way Brahms uses Hungarian tunes: They are exotic yet grounded in a thoroughly Germanic soundscape. But what a soundscape! He was being noticed and was winning prizes for works in which he included very un-classical folk instruments such as the cimbalom, a type of hammered dulcimer. By 1914, when Fritz Reiner conducted the premiere of Weiner’s early Prince Csongor and the Kobolde, based on a Hungarian fairy tale, his career was already taking off.

He started teaching at the main conservatory in Budapest, and remained there the rest of his life. In addition to composition, he accompanied and coached opera singers, and began teaching in the area where he would have the most international influence, chamber music.

The musicians who came through his chamber music classes learned to develop a full-blooded yet highly accurate approach to sound. Many would become conductors, yet whether in playing or in directing the playing of others, the combination of boundless passion with razor-sharp technique ironically catapulted American orchestras (Ormandy’s Philadelphia and Solti’s Chicago, for instance), into the vanguard of European classical performance.

The 1930s saw the composing of his Divertimento and the Opus 18 Suite of Hungarian dances. America was the first to hear the Suite, now perhaps his most-played work. It was Reiner, again, with the Rochester Philharmonic in 1933. Weiner dedicated it to composer László Lajtha, who had introduced him to many of these Hungarian tunes. Where did Lajtha learn them? Why, from working alongside Bartók and Kodály.

Through his rigorous teaching and his brilliant music, Léo Weiner is rightly considered one of the leading lights of Hungarian music in the 20th century.

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Now Is the Time
11:08 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Images from a Closed Ward

from Michael Hersch: Images from a Closed Ward

We remember the living and the dying on Now Is the Time, Saturday, April 26th at 9 pm at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. The music of Michael Hersch is always strong, always dark, and always provocative, but its true power lies in its vibrancy, always reaching out to us. Images from a Closed Ward refers to drawings by Michael Mazur of psychiatric patients. The lithographs and the music are tough but compelling; the sadness is deep, but the humanity, sublime. The Blair String Quartet plays this riveting 13-movement work.

A separate string orchestra piece that is also part of her second symphony, Ghosts of Judith Lang Zaimont salutes the composers Scriabin, Britten, Ravel, Berg, Christopher Rouse, and Laurie Anderson. But—and this is important—it is by no means a pastiche of other styles. Ghosts is a thoroughly integrated work of imagination and depth.

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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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