When violinist Richard Schmoucler founded the Sirba Octet in 2003, he created an entirely new sound. With arrangers Cyrille Lehn and Yann Ollivo, five fellow musicians from the Orchestre de Paris, a pianist and a cimbalom player, he formed a unique ensemble with a fresh perspective on klezmer, Yiddish and gypsy music.
- Richard Schmoucler, violin & artistic director
- Laurent Manaud Pallas, violin
- Grégoire Vecchioni, viola
- Claude Giron, cello
- Bernard Cazauran, bass
- Philippe Berrod, clarinet
- Christophe Henry, piano
- Iurie Morar, cimbalom
In collaboration with the Orchestre de Paris, the Sirba Octet performed Un violon sur les toits de Paris, (A fiddler on the rooves of Paris), at the Théâtre Mogador, a concert which they developed into their first acoustic album, A Yiddish Mame, released in 2005 under the label Ambroisie (Naïve). With Slavic and Yiddish nuances, this anthology of Eastern European melodies is drawn from Schmoucler’s own memories of happy family gatherings.
Significant artistic partnerships
In 2007, as part of the Festival d’Île-de-France, the Sirba Octet worked with Isabelle Georges, the multi-talented singer, dancer and actress known as a ‘triple threat’, to produce Du Shtetl à New York. An array of music from the shtetl and standards from the golden age of American musical theatre, via jazz, ragtime and lullabies composed by second generation immigrants, the show charts the journey made by millions of Eastern Europeans from their shtetls, or villages, to New York, melting pot of musical influences from all over the world. The show was inspired by Fabienne Rousso-Lenoir’s documentary Du Shtetl à Broadway and celebrates heredity and inheritance, an important foundation of the Yiddish community.
The Sirba Octet continued to work with Isabelle Georges on Yiddish Rhapsody, a show based on traditional Yiddish music but accented with elements of jazz, salsa, musicals, rock and samba. Commissioned by the Orchestre de Pau Pays de Béarn, conducted by Fayçal Karoui, Yiddish Rhapsody was unique in its staging of the octet alongside a 50-piece orchestra and was therefore able to perform orchestral as well as chamber music. The show became their third album with Naïve, and was performed with the Orchestre Lamoureux at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Orchestre de Trier in Germany, the Liège Royal Philharmonic, the Tonkustler Orchester at Festspielhaus and at Musikverein in Vienna.
Their albums have received critical acclaim in the press, winning notably a ‘10 de Répertoire-Classica’ for Du Shtetl à New York, the European Association for Jewish Culture prize and a Choc de Classica for Tantz! The group was also the subject of a documentary by Alain Duault for France 3 entitled A day with the Sirba Octet and Isabelle Georges. In 2011 the Sirba Octet and Isabelle Georges were selected by the Victoires de la Musique Classique to appear alongside the Orchestre des Pays de la Loire conducted by John Axelrod.
Appearing regularly at leading festivals in France and abroad, the Sirba Octet have performed at many prestigious venues including the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and Musikverein in Vienna with longer runs at Théâtre Mogador, l’Européen, La Cigale et à l’Espace Pierre Cardin à Paris. In 2012, they took part in the Festival Radio Classique at the Olympia with Isabelle Georges and, in 2013, they appeared at Musiques en fête aux Chorégies d’Orange which was broadcast live on France 3.
Thanks to their talented arranger Cyrille Lehn, the Sirba Octet are constantly enriching their repertoire, adding pieces that range from the most famous to the lesser known. Lehn worked with the group on a project for which they were joined for the first time by Catherine Lara. This new adventure led to the album Au cœur de l’âme Yiddish (The Spirit of the Yiddish), released on Sony in November 2012. Captivated by their world, Catherine Lara chose eight of her most acclaimed pieces to record with the Sirba Octet. In April 2013, they performed the album live for two concerts at l’Alhambra in Paris.
An energetic and heartfelt musical journey
The Sirba Octet releases his 5th album Tantz! in 2015 at the label La Dolce Volta. The release of this new album is followed by a series of five exceptional concerts at Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris. The album Tantz! is a musical virtuoso, expressive and dancing, carried by eight exceptional musicians with dazzling performance. This real musical treasure drawn from the traditional repertoire leads the public at the mercy of the Doina, Hora, Sirba and other dances of klezmer and gypsy music from Eastern Europe. Tantz! Gateway between Romania, Moldavia, Russia and Hungary, is seen as a twirling and poetic journey, crossing boundaries and imagination. The great violinist, Ivry Gitlis, major figure and emblematic, dedicates this new album and supports this musical journey. The album Tantz! reissued at the Deutsche Grammophon label was released in November 2017 enriched with two new titles.
Sirba Octet releases two albums on the Deutsche Grammophon label
The Sirba Octet engages in a new collaboration for its new album Sirba Orchestra! he signs at the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label. Sirba Orchestra! is a meeting between Sirba Octet, a symphony orchestra and one of the greatest balalaika players, Nicolas Kedroff. An anthology of the most beautiful themes of gypsy cabaret and klezmer music. This program created in 2015 with the Pau / Pays de Béarn Orchestra under the direction of Fayçal Karoui for a series of performances at the Palais Beaumont in Pau was broadcast live by Radio Classique. The Sirba Orchestra program! recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Liège directed by Christian Arming and Nicolas Kedroff at the balalaika was the subject of new orchestrations and a contribution of five unreleased tracks for its release on the Deutsche Grammophon label in May 2018. The release of the album was followed by a concert in June 2018 at the Musical Seine of Boulogne-Billancourt. Sirba Orchestra ! is welcomed by many orchestras in France and abroad.
Sirbalalaïka, a new program
Sirbalalaïka In line with the Sirba Orchestra!. A program in which the Sirba Octet rediscovers Alexei Birioukov’s balalaika. Without orchestra but with an energy always so irresistible!
Classical World Music
The vigour, intensity and originality of the Sirba Octet’s arrangements bring to life the familiar tunes of Eastern Europe – a body of music characterized by the wanderings of a whole population, in which sentiment and creative flair are bound together. Unparalleled outside of the conventional circuit, the group skilfully unite genres and combine both orchestral and chamber music. Sirba Octet’s unique vision puts them in their own league as they pioneer a new genre – Classical World.