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.

Pages

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

An Exaltation of Larks

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."

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

First Leaves of Spring

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.

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

The Ides of March

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.

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

A Suite of Etudes

We study etudes, "studies," on Now Is the Time, Saturday, September 6th 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?

Read more
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.

Read more
Now Is the Time
10:10 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Extended Family

We're all family on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 22nd at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Excerpts from the third film in the Philip Glass "Qatsi" trilogy begin the show. Naqoyqatsi from 2002 included much digital imagery, so Glass decided to balance that with a completely acoustic musical underlay. Prominently featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Naqoyqatsi explores our relationships to each other and the world.

The Gene Pool, Siblings, Cousins and Uncles and Aunts, Loss, and The Gathering are the five movements comprising Extended Family by Neil Rolnick. Moving away from family, family moving back, grandchildren, neighbors, neighbors' children, more family, life and death are all springboards for this string quartet put together with the humor, panache, and skill Rolnick brings to all his music. The string quartet Ethel plays.

Read more
Now Is the Time
3:43 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Valentines

We hope it's not too late for Valentines on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 15th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. We start with soprano and guitar, and with an orphan's dream of an angel in Romance by William Ortiz. Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful" is the inspiration behind Love Twitters by Augusta Read Thomas, for piano, but Morten Lauridsen asks, "Against whom have you formed these thorns?" in Contre qui, rose. A lover asks for a handkerchief (she'll return it when no one's looking), in a four-hand piano setting of the Italian folk song Amor dammi quel fazzolettino by Andrew Violette.

David Bennett Thomas works with some of the greatest love poetry in his Juliet: Five Songs from Shakespeare, and we hear Eric Whitacre's first published choral work, Go, lovely Rose. Finally, Allen Shawn sends us into the evening with a last-minute Valentine's Day present for his wife, titled simply, Valentine.

Read more
Now Is the Time
10:30 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Old Love Story, Old Computer

It's a story as old as love, and a computer before there were computers, on Now Is the Time, Saturday, February 8th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Philip Lasser's Nicolette et Aucassin are in love, and like Romeo and Juliet, their families disapprove. Unlike R&J, however, this ends happily. Two sopranos sing the 13th-century–inspired musical lines of the boy and girl, and actor Michael York's narration fills in the story.

A triple concerto for violin, cello, piano, and strings is the construction behind The Difference Engine by Graham Reynolds. The title is the name of a machine by the 19th-century inventor Charles Babbage, who was trying to build what we now call a computer. With movements such as "The Cogwheel Brain" and "Cam Stack and Crank Handle," Reynolds invents a propulsive concerto that imagines what goes with what. Like love, we suppose.

Read more
Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection
5:58 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Mexico and Cuba in the Fleisher Collection

Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, Saturday Feb. 1st at 5 pm... The Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music is not only the world’s largest lending library of orchestral performance materials, but because of the foresight of founder Edwin Fleisher, Curator Arthur Cohn, and the adventurousness of the globe-trotting Nicolas Slonimsky, it also contains hundreds and hundreds of Latin American orchestral scores and parts.

As we’ve recounted on Discoveries before, Fleisher commissioned conductor and author Slonimsky in 1941 to travel throughout Central and South America for the purpose of adding music from these countries to the vast European and growing American repertoire already on the shelves of the Collection. Scores were shipped to the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the huge task of reproducing them began. Some of the scores were given outright as gifts; others, after photographic reproduction, were returned. Dozens of music copyists then began extracting the individual parts needed so that the works could be performed.

This would have been familiar work for Candelaria Huizar, the composer, violist, hornist, and in the 1920s, music copyist in the library of the National Conservatory in Mexico City. He had already studied music as a child with the director of the Jérez Municipal Band. At nine the band took him on as a saxhorn player. He joined other brass bands, and when one of them traveled to Mexico City, he stayed there the rest of his life. He became a music copyist at the Conservatory, then librarian, and later, Huizar was professor of composition, harmony, and orchestration there. His Imágenes (Images) is a delightful look back at his hometown.

Joining him at the Conservatory was his countryman José Rolón. He studied music in Paris from 1904 to 1907, then came back to Mexico, and founded a music school in Guadalajara. In 1927 he returned to Paris to study with composer Paul Dukas and one of the great composition teachers of the 20th century, Nadia Boulanger. Rolón came back to Mexico again, taught at the National Conservatory, wrote music criticism and a harmony textbook, and composed the Piano Concerto we’ll hear today. This brand-new recording was made from materials housed in the Fleisher Collection.

Born in Paris to a Cuban mother and Spanish father, Amadeo Roldán, after music study in Madrid, moved to Cuba at age 19. He was concertmaster of the Havana Philharmonic, founded the Havana String Quartet, and became one of Cuba’s leading composers. Roldán broke new ground with perhaps the very first percussion-only works for the concert stage, and injected new life into Western classical music with the sounds and rhythms of Afrocubanismo. His 1928 ballet La Rebambaramba, the Suite of which we’ll listen to, is a riot of percussion, soaring melody, and audacious orchestral sound.

When Mr. Cohn suggested to Mr. Fleisher that his Collection needed to look beyond the standard repertoire and acquire symphonic works from other cultures, this is what he was talking about.

Read more
Now Is the Time
10:24 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Music for Four Hands

It's music for different duos on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 25th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Charles Knox's Suite for Piano Four-Hands is puckish and not a little bold: its six movements take four minutes to play, and include an "Etude" that lasts all of six seconds. Chen Yi channels, for two violins and strings, two ancient Chinese instruments in her Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in, and George Crumb, in his Otherworldly Resonances for two amplified pianos, honors, in the "Palimpsest" movement, old manuscripts that have been erased and written over (and quotes the Gospel song "Bringing in the Sheaves").

Van Stiefel sets poetry of Sidney Lanier for voice and two electric guitars in Souls and Raindrops, and Ursula Mamlok's brilliant Sonatina is for two clarinets. Lance Hulme composed Manic Music, he said, for "two maniacal pianists," and the playing seems to demand a certain craziness, as cavalier as you can be while staying in step with your duo partner.

Read more

Pages