About Robert Sirota, composer
Robert Sirota’s work has been performed throughout the United States and abroad, at venues including Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Tanglewood Music Center, the Aspen Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, and at The Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music, Peabody, Oberlin Conservatory, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. His commissions include works for the Empire Brass, American Guild of Organists, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Fischer Duo, the Peabody Trio, the Webster Trio, and the Chiara String Quartet.
Robert Sirota’s latest two orchestral works, A Rush of Wings and 212: Symphony No. 1, were both praised in The New York Times. Of A Rush of Wings, Steve Smith wrote that the piece is, “fashioned with the clean, angular melodies, tart harmonies, lively syncopations and punchy accents of American Neo-Classicism.” Of 212: Symphony No. 1, Anthony Tommasini wrote, “If directness can be considered a New York character trait, that quality comes through in Mr. Sirota’s symphony. Complexity for its own sake and expressive obfuscation are not for this energetic and highly professional composer. Although the overall musical language of this score recalls the American Neo-Classicists, Mr. Sirota’s compositional voice has a distinctive tartness and rhythmic bite. Thick, astringent chromatic harmonies come in tightly bound chords to create nervous sonorities. Yet the textures are always lucid; details come through.”
Recent and upcoming performances of Sirota’s music include the October 2011 New York premiere of Holy Women, a cantata for nine singers and chamber ensemble composed by Sirota, with a libretto by Victoria Sirota, based on the lives of the nine women saints depicted in St. Bede’s Chapel’s stained glass windows in Greenwich, Connecticut; the New York premiere of his chamber opera The Clever Mistress as part of The Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival at Symphony Space in April 2012; and the world premiere of a new work commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the installation of the historic Appleton Organ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2012.
Robert Sirota’s catalogue comprises three short operas, a full-length music theatre piece, as well as orchestral, symphonic band, chamber and recital works. His 1999 work for organ and orchestra, In the Fullness of Time, has been performed several times by the Seattle Symphony, as well as by the Lincoln Symphony in Nebraska, the Meridian Symphony in Mississippi, and the Oberlin Orchestra. His chamber music has entered the repertoire of several leading ensembles: Triptych (2002) – which commemorates the victims of September 11th and is inspired by the visual art of Deborah Patterson – is often played by the Chiara and American String Quartets; his Piano Trio (1998) has been performed multiple times by the Peabody Trio, the Concord Trio, and many others; and A Sinner’s Diary for flute, two violas, cello, percussion and piano, completed in 2005, has already received several performances. His music has been recorded by the Fischer Duo for the Gasparo label, and by the Chiara String Quartet for their New Voice Singles series.
In recent years, Robert Sirota has composed several works for orchestra in addition to In the Fullness of Time, A Rush of Wings, and 212, including Meridians (2006) and Epiphanies for string quartet and orchestra (2006). Mr. Sirota’s music for chorus and for organ has also been widely performed, most notably Mass (1990) for chorus, soloists, organ and percussion; The Passion of Jesus Christ (1998), a visual oratorio for soloists, chorus, organ, piano and percussion; Celestial Wind (1987) for organ; and Easter Canticles (1993) for cello and organ. Mr. Sirota’s children’s opera in one act, The Tailor of Gloucester (1987) is based on the story by Beatrix Potter and has been produced by companies throughout the country.
Robert Sirota has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the United States Information Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, and the American Music Center. Among his awards are a First Prize in the Long Island Composers Alliance Competition and the Andrew White Medal from Loyola College in Baltimore.
A native New Yorker, Mr. Sirota received his earliest compositional training at The Juilliard School, and received his bachelor’s degree in piano and composition from Oberlin Conservatory where he studied with Joseph Wood and Richard Hoffman. A Thomas J. Watson Fellowship allowed him to study and concertize in Paris, where his principal teacher was Nadia Boulanger. Returning to America, Mr. Sirota earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, studying with Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner.
Before becoming Director of The Johns Hopkins University's prestigious Peabody Institute in 1995, Sirota served as Chairman of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University and Director of Boston University's School of Music. From 2005-2012, he was the president of the Manhattan School of Music in New York, where he was also a member of the School’s composition faculty.