Monthly Archives: November 2009

Buy Vespers for Christmas, he says

Chestnut Hill is the neighborhood in Philadelphia that saw one of the two premiere performances of Vespers, and the Chestnut Hill Local is its award-winning weekly:

Chestnut Hill Local

Michael Caruso, 26 Nov 2009

If you’re looking to give the gift of music with a local connection this Christmas season.… Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, and The Crossing, the chamber choir, have joined forces to record Kile Smith’s Vespers.… It’s a modern setting of the traditional Vespers liturgy of the German Lutheran Church for chorus and period instruments.… Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of Smith’s Vespers is his nearly unique ability to blend the traditional outlines of centuries of musical settings… with the harmonic sounds of modern music.… he managed it all without ever sounding either condescending or constricted.

His vocal writing is no less impressive… one of the most amazing aspects of Smith’s Vespers ­[is] the organic integration of the instrumental and vocal parts to produce… one multi-textured and multi-colored body of sound… Both the singing and the playing are splendid.

Read the entire article here. To buy Vespers (as he says you should), these are all of the different places it’s available.

Vespers CD, Fanfare Magazine

We’ve made it into Fanfare twice: first in Peter Burwasser’s 2009 Want List, and then Carson Cooman writes it up in the regular reviews:

Smith’s Vespers (2008) is a magnificent achievement: it draws on the contrapuntal and textural idioms of Renaissance and Baroque music to create a fresh, vibrant musical statement in a contemporary harmonic language. The many instruments of the Piffaro Renaissance band are employed in myriad delightful combinations—from gentle, pastoral recorders with harp to a blazing chorus of shawms, dulzians, and sackbuts.

Like his Lutheran predecessors in the Renaissance and Baroque era, Smith bases many of the movements upon traditional chorale melodies. These prove fertile ground for his own harmonic explorations, and the whole work bursts with the invention that characterizes the best music (from any era) of this sort. The performance is excellent—Piffaro has distinguished itself through many records of period music, and The Crossing is a recently created choir (brainchild of conductor Donald Nally) that performs contemporary choral music exclusively.

Read the entire review here.

Inside WRTI

Awfully nice of WRTI to point out Vespers and Two Laudate Psalms in a notice on the bottom of their homepage. They refer to the two radio shows, and if you follow the jump, you’ll find links to things like the story behind the theme music for Now is the Time.

There is one mistake… well, not a mistake, really, but when a “mellow, intelligent-sounding voice” is noted they neglect to mention that all state-of-the-art radio engineering consoles have a voice quality dial, and that the engineer has just upgraded me to the “mellow, intelligent-sounding” notch. That’s all. While no money has changed hands, I won’t comment on whether the delivery of meatball sandwiches to the engineering department coinciding with each of my recording slots has, or does not have, any bearing on access to heretofore unknown-to-me audio technology. I started out at the dial setting we call Prof. Julius Kelp, and since I spent such a long time there they were kind enough to leapfrog me right over Ernest T. Bass to Richie Cunningham, where I stayed until the recent promotion. Thanks, guys!

Fanfare Magazine Want List 2009: Vespers

FanfareCoverNally: SMITH, K. Vespers on NAVONA

Peter Burwasser, 9 Oct 2009, Issue 33:2, Nov/Dec 2009

Kile Smith: Vespers
Audio CD; Enhanced
Navona 5809

Kile Smith is the curator of the renowned Fleisher Collection of music in Philadelphia, and a composer of stealthy excellence. His Vespers is an ethereally beautiful setting of liturgical text that deftly blends modernity and ancient forms. Commissioned by a period-instrument ensemble, it is enchantingly played by their collection of sackbuts, shawms, lutes, and other antique instruments.… a singular voice. 

Salomon Jadassohn, Gloria Coates

On the first Saturday of the month Jack Moore and I host Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and on the all-classical webstream at We also broadcast encore presentations of the entire Discoveries series (now eight years and counting) every Wednesday at 7:00 pm on WRTI HD-2. For a look at all the shows, click here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m.

Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902). Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor (1887). Markus Becker, piano, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Michael Sanderling. Hyperion 67636. Tr 4-6. 23:51

Gloria Coates (b.1938). Symphony No. 7 (1991). Stuttgart Philharmonic, Georg Schmöhe. CPO 999392-2. Tr 4-6. 25:16

The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is on November 9th, 2009. Inspired by this historic event, the American composer Gloria Coates (who has lived in Germany for years) dedicated her seventh symphony “to those who brought down the Wall in PEACE.” Salomon Jadassohn was an eminent composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher in Germany. Although he died in 1902, his works were banned by anti-Semitic followers of Richard Wagner in the 1930s. Fortunately, his music (ironically influenced by Wagner) is beginning to be heard once again.

JadassohnJadassohn attended the Leipzig Conservatory shortly after its founding by Felix Mendelssohn and eventually taught piano and composition there. He had studied piano with Ignaz Moscheles and Franz Liszt, and among his influences in composition were Liszt and Wagner. He was a well-respected teacher who produced manuals on harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration that were used for years. Grieg, Delius, and one of last month’s composers on Discoveries, George Chadwick, all studied with him.

His many works, including this inventive second concerto, are wonderful examples of the Romantic idiom. But Jadassohn never achieved first-rank fame. The bigger star in Leipzig at the time was Carl Reinecke, who directed the Conservatory and conducted the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Moreover, the music of Jadassohn and other Jewish composers was labeled “degenerate” by the Nazis, so his posthumous reputation never gained the traction that sometimes occurs for composers in succeeding generations.

CoatesGloriaWith the increase in recordings of unheralded composers (greatly encouraged by the Fleisher Collection), that barrier to his music is only now coming down. However, the powerful Symphony No. 7 of Gloria Coates celebrates the 1989 demolition of a literal wall, the one built by the Communists in 1961 to separate East and West Berlin. This symphony is not a programmatic piece, but it’s hard not to hear an homage to the perseverance and ultimate victory of those who lived to witness the end of that calamity.

Her 15 symphonies have to be more than any woman has ever composed, and Coates uses a favorite technique in her Seventh: the orchestral glissando. Slow, insistent slides, up and down throughout the various sections of the ensemble, are surprisingly compelling in their strength. This is formidable and exciting music. While she counts Bach and Palestrina as her biggest influences (and a close study reveals her love of counterpoint), one detects a patient unfolding similar to the first hearing of a Bruckner symphony, with sudden epiphanies along the way. Another surprise is that Coates studied with Otto Luening, who studied with Ferruccio Busoni, who studied with… Jadassohn.

May the walls continue to fall.

Two Laudate Psalms, Broad Street Review

From Tom Purdom’s review of Two Laudate Psalms:

Smith 3-0

Give Kile Smith a hat trick. This composer’s setting of two praise psalms—#113 and 150, for numbers geeks—continued a streak that includes the piece for horn and orchestra that the Classical Symphony debuted two seasons ago as well as the Vespers that Smith composed for Piffaro last season.… Smith wrote the settings for two of the most appealing instruments in the Philadelphia region: Suzanne DuPlantis’s mezzo and the massed voices of the Pennsylvania Girlchoir.… an exuberant religious rite that placed a buoyant leader in front of a group of enthusiastic young followers.

Read the entire review here.

Two Laudate Psalms, Inquirer review

In the Philadelphia Inquirer today, David Patrick Stearns reviews the premiere of Two Laudate Psalms:

… natural, un-ostentatious simplicity. Close inspection revealed subtle deviations in its agreeable melodiousness that never allowed the ear to slip into a mental autopilot that comes with having heard like-minded pieces. The God-is-in-the-details adage holds true… The music’s spiritual conviction was amplified by these near-invisible touches.

Read the entire review here.