Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Nobility of Women, Delaware press

From the Flute Pro Shop: “a total triumph… entrancing… fresh harmonic language, and counterpoint (this is counterpoint that is not always  imitative-very interesting!) and instrumentation which reminds me of operatic ensembles in which each character retains their personality….Kile Smith’s musical voice is unique and compelling.”

From Delaware Arts Info: “The work is a series of dances which have both a baroque inspiration and a modern treatment– especially the fanfare of the Overture. Smith’s mastery of detail (his years as librarian of the Fleisher collection made their mark) was evident in his his careful consideration of each instrument as a soloist.”

Both had illuminating, complimentary, and well-deserved comments about the players, including this: “Priscilla Smith brought a very fresh and unadorned mastery of baroque oboe to the fore as she played the beautiful, quiet and almost vibrato-free melodies of Telemann and Couperin. Her youth and talent promise a great deal for her future. She already has an impressive resume of performances as a baroque player.”

Huzzahs to Priscilla and Mélomanie!

The Nobility of Women, Chestnut Hill Local

Referring to Vespers and saying that I have made a name from  “composing new music for older instruments,” Michael Caruso in the Chestnut Hill Local calls The Nobility of Women “concisely pointed character sketches of baroque dances.”

I can’t deny that I’ve become known as someone who can write for historical instruments. Mélomanie approached me about a piece for them—which became Nobility—after they heard Vespers. The Crossing and the Baroque orchestra Tempesta di Mare talked to me about The Waking Sun after Vespers.

People sometimes ask me if I mind. I suppose McLean Stevenson was asked if he minded being Lt. Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H. I don’t mind. I love it. If people think that’s what I do, fine, as I love writing for all kinds of instruments, and love the challenge of releasing the gorgeous sounds of recorders, dulcians, gambas, or what have you.

But I don’t think of myself that way. I’ve composed choral music, lots of orchestral works, and songs and chamber music for decades. I’m working on many different projects now, none of which use “early” instruments. If I go back to it, I’d be delighted, though.

Caruso had nice things to say, including that “Melomanie gave The Nobility of Women a sterling reading.”

The Crossing sings my music on the radio

Live performances of Vespers, The Waking Sun, and Where Flames a Word will be on the radio this weekend:

Sunday, January 22, 2012
3:00 – 5:00 PM
WRTI – 90.1FM, Philadelphia
and online anywhere: www.wrti.org

From The Crossing: “Vespers, the work that brought Kile Smith into our lives and hearts, recorded live in concert at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill on Sunday January 8th, 2012 in a joyful collaboration with Piffaro, The Renaissance Band, will be the first broadcast in a series of live Crossing concerts on WRTI, 90.1FM, Philadelphia.

The remainder of the program will include two pieces The Crossing commissioned from Kile, 2009’s Where flames a word, for our Celan Project, and 2011’s The Waking Sun for our Seneca Sounds Project.”

Donald and I will briefly discuss the music. But it’s mostly the music.

PHOENIXtail

These guys—and not just the one raised in my house—are the real deal. Fabulous players, all, and exciting to watch and hear. Check them out if at all possible.

PHOENIXtail

Beth Wenstrom, violin
Priscilla Smith, oboe & recorders
Ezra Seltzer, ‘cello
Jeffrey Grossman, harpsichord
Music of Couperin, Handel, Telemann, Fontana, Merula
Thursday, January 19, 8pm
Christ & St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
126 W. 69th St. (betw. Broadway and Columbus Ave.)

The Nobility of Women, Philadelphia Inquirer

The “kind of musical layering that makes his choral works so entrancing” spoke to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns in his review of The Nobility of Women, my premiere with Mélomanie this past weekend. It’s a dance suite for Baroque flute, oboe, violin, cello, and viola da gamba and harpsichord, and is about 20 minutes long in eight dances.

He said that the piece hit its stride when “a big, interesting harpsichord flourish invaded the third movement,” and continued to say that the “Sarabande had an oboe solo full of eloquent, Italianate longing, while the final-movement Ciaccona was packed with individual star turns.” He relates Nobility to the line of “works as diverse as Stravinsky’s Agon and Respighi’s popular Ancient Arts and Dances.

There were small and not-so-small solos throughout the piece. Daughter Priscilla (the oboist) played beautifully in that Sarabande solo, as did everyone, who weaved the lovely sounds of these instruments into the ensemble. Stearns rightly singled out “the poised soulfulness of Boismortier’s Suite in D minor, played with particular depth by the wonderful viola da gamba player Donna Fournier.”

I liked the Telemann more than he did, but I realize that I may be in the minority. Telemann just doesn’t miss with me, the Dvorak of the Baroque. But lots of people, I’ve found, think of Telemann’s output as they do of much of Hindemith’s. And I can’t say I’ve ever been bored by Hindemith, either. Even the notey stuff I love.

Mark Hagerty’s clever and delightful Variations on a Theme by Steely Dan rounded out the concert, along with Couperin dances for Priscilla.

I had a blast writing for this wonderful group. Their commitment to the piece revealed little explosions of surprise that captivated me.

Vespers in the Chestnut Hill Local

In “Masterpiece brings packed house Sunday to Hill church,” Michael Caruso called the 2008 premiere of Vespers “a masterpiece of composition within the context of religious devotion,” singling out as “most impressive” my “commitment to the powerful traditions of German Lutheran piety as expressed in music.”

He then says about Sunday’s (Jan. 8th) performance, that the “marvel of Smith’s music is found in its ability to sound both old and new at one and the same time. The timbres of Piffaro’s Renaissance instruments and the straight-tone singing of The Crossing recall the music of centuries ago, as does Smith’s sophisticated use of contrapuntal techniques.”

Caruso rightly praises Donald Nally, who “elicited flawless singing and exuberant playing from his musicians.”

Vespers in Condemned to Music, Arts Journal

David Patrick Stearns compares Monteverdi and me. He went to recent performances of a “Vespers” (not 1610), put together from later Monteverdi works by the Green Mountain Project, and my Vespers, and believes that both the master and I resolve dichotomies by bringing “enemies together.”

Monteverdi brought a new kind of music—less contrapuntal, more operatic—into the Church. My piece comes from someone Stearns describes as an “ultra-devout” composer who writes “almost anti- evangelical,” or not preachy, music. It “speaks to him without histrionics.”

“There’s absolutely no guile or strategy behind it…. There’s plenty of joy – though not with anything as superficial or as potentially vulgar as jubilation. Smith’s Magnificat is full of wonderful canonic writing that has a simple, straightforward effect – achieved through a complexity of means that could only be the work of an extremely accomplished composer… De-dramatized, de-politicized spiritually-oriented music is no stranger to admirers of Arvo Pärt. But even at his most secular, Pärt seems to echo, however distantly, the asceticism of the Eastern Orthodox Church. If Smith is writing for a church, it’s one without walls.”

I don’t know what that means, though people of all faiths have told me marvelous things about their experiences listening to it. I see, simply, a Lutheran Vespers, a traditionally formed Christian work with Psalms, hymns, a Lord’s Prayer, and so on. What I tried to put in it was what I have felt from the inside: the power of a chant, of a hymn, that churns and overwhelms. Many, many greater ones than I feel this, the saints from books, the saints who I sit next to. He says it speaks to his “integration-starved soul.” I bow my head at those kind words.