Robert Sirota, composer
"Sirota’s musical language is personal and undogmatic, in the sense that instead of aligning himself with any of the competing contemporary styles, he follows his own internal musical compass." – Allan Kozinn, Portland Press Herald
"Robert Sirota is a compelling musical voice of our time. [Celestial Wind] definitely documents some of his finest creations for the organ." – The American Organist
"embodies an inner drama that, like so much music (or at least good music), enacts the way our inner lives are shaped by memory: how it haunts us, how it arouses our deepest emotions, how it shades all we see and do" - American Record Guide
"Robert Sirota’s music seems ultimately conscious. The variety of sounds he manages to draw from the organ is staggering." - Second Inversion
Over five decades, composer Robert Sirota has developed a distinctive voice, clearly discernible in all of his work – whether symphonic, choral, stage, or chamber music. Writing in the Portland Press Herald, Allan Kozinn asserts: “Sirota’s musical language is personal and undogmatic, in the sense that instead of aligning himself with any of the competing contemporary styles, he follows his own internal musical compass.”
Robert Sirota’s chamber works have been performed by Alarm Will Sound; Washington Square Contemporary Music Society; Sequitur; Sandbox Percussion; Yale Camerata; yMusic; pianist Jeffrey Kahane; TACTUS Ensemble; Chameleon Arts Ensemble; New Hudson Saxophone Quartet; Left Bank Concert Society; Dinosaur Annex; the Chiara, American, Telegraph, Ethel, Elmyr, and Blair String Quartets; the Peabody, Concord, and Webster Trios; and the Fischer Duo, and at festivals including the Tanglewood, Aspen, Yellow Barn, and Cooperstown music festivals; Bowdoin Gamper and Bowdoin International Music Festival; and Mizzou International Composers Festival. Orchestral performances include the Seattle, Vermont, Virginia, East Texas, Lincoln (NE), Meridian (MS), New Haven, Greater Bridgeport, Oradea (Romania) and Saint Petersburg (Russia) symphonies, as well as conservatory orchestras of Oberlin, Peabody, Manhattan School of Music, Toronto, and Singapore.
Sirota’s liturgical works include three major commissions for the American Guild of Organists: In the Fullness of Time, a concerto for organ and orchestra, Mass for chorus, organ and percussion, and Apparitions for organ and string quartet, as well as works for solo organ, organ and cello, and organ and piano.
In 2019-2020 Robert Sirota celebrated his 70th birthday with Sirota @ 70, a season-long celebration featuring performances of his works spanning 20 years. World premieres of commissions for the occasion included Job Fragments for baritone Thomas Pellaton, cello, and piano with text adapted from the Book of Job; Dancing With the Angels for flute, viola, and harp, for Carol Wincenc; and Blackbird Singing, for flute, clarinet and piano, based on the Lennon/McCartney song, for Linda Chesis and the Cooperstown Summer Music Festival. Due to COVID-19 cancellations, the premieres of Prayer for organ, composed for Sirota’s wife Victoria Sirota, and Family Portraits, for cello and piano, composed for the Fischer Duo, were rescheduled for a later season, eventually having their world premieres in May and June, 2021, respectively. The premiere of Contrapassos, with libretto by Stevan Cavalier for the Telegraph Quartet and soprano Abigail Fischer, for the Sierra Chamber Society, was also rescheduled and had its world premiere performance in July 2022.
Additional recent commissions include Sirota’s third string quartet, Wave Upon Wave for the Naumburg Foundation; Immigrant Songs for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine; Luminous Bodies performed by Jeffrey Kahane and yMusic at the Sarasota Music Festival; Hafez Songs for Palladium Musicum; O Blessed Holy Trinity for choir and organ, for Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis; and his Cello Sonata No. 2, for Benjamin Larsen and Hyungjin Choi. In the past three years, Sirota has also been commissioned by the American String Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, and yMusic. Sirota’s arrangements of songs for Paul Simon and yMusic were performed on Simon’s farewell tour, including an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Sirota has held seminars and residencies at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Samford University, Carnegie Mellon University, Peabody Institute, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and New World School of the Arts at Miami Dade College. He also created and curated Bridging the Gap, a series of concerts at National Sawdust that explore the relationships between generations of composers.
Sirota is recorded on the Capstone, Albany, New Voice and Gasparo labels and his discography grows with his composition Family Portraits for cello and piano, on the Fischer Duo’s album 2020 Visions (Navona Records, 2022); an arrangement on Paul Simon’s In The Blue Light (Legacy Recordings, 2018); Elegy for a Lost World on violist Jonah Sirota’s Strong Sad (National Sawdust Tracks, 2018); his second string quartet, American Pilgrimage, on American String Quartet’s American Romantics (independently released, 2018); and Diners, on the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet’s New York Rising (ClasSax, 2019).
Recipient of grants from the Guggenheim and Watson Foundations, the United States Information Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, and the American Music Center, Sirota’s music is published by Muzzy Ridge Music, Schott, Music Associates of New York, MorningStar, Theodore Presser, and To the Fore.
Before becoming Director of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University 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 Manhattan School of Music, where he was also a member of the School’s composition faculty.
A native New Yorker, Sirota studied at Juilliard, Oberlin, and Harvard and divides his time between New York and Searsmont, Maine with his wife, Episcopal priest and organist Victoria Sirota. They frequently collaborate on new works, with Victoria as librettist and performer, at times also working with their children, Jonah and Nadia, both world-class violists.
Photo by Ryuhei Shindo