Zimro Ensemble

Zimro Trio Group Photo
  • Paul Barritt - violin/viola
  • Neyire Ashworth - clarinet
  • Daniel Becker - piano

Formed in 2006, the Zimro Ensemble is an exuberant force on the chamber music scene. At its core is a trio of clarinet, violin or viola and piano and was founded whilst the three musicians found themselves playing chamber music together in the beautiful surroundings of the Swaledale Festival in the Yorkshire Dales. This electrifying trio boasts some of the UK's premier chamber musicians and performs a rich and varied repertoire for both violin and viola, clarinet and piano and also with additional cello or a full string quartet. Their approach to performing combines fun and passion with a spirit of adventure!

The Zimro Story

In 1917 a group of Russian Jewish musicians set out from St Petersburg on an intrepid journey lasting two long years. They were called Zimro. A group of six classical musicians (string quartet, clarinet and piano), Zimro was formed by one of the foremost clarinettists in Russia, Simeon Bellison. They toured Jewish communities throughout Eastern Europe and the Far East, visiting the far flung corners of Russia, Siberia, China, Japan, Indonesia and Alaska before finally arriving in the United States in 1919, where they met up with their close friend and colleague, the composer Sergei Prokofiev. He wrote them a sextet, the Overture on Jewish Themes, which they premiered at the Bohemian Club in Chicago in 1920 and at their Carnegie Hall debut in New York City in 1921.

Zimro’s newly commissioned work from Prokofiev was based on two Jewish melodies taken from one of Simeon Bellison’s personal notebooks. In these books he collected melodies with a Jewish identity. Bellison had been active in the Jewish folk music movement in Russia from as early as 1906 and Zimro performed several works with simple, evocative Jewish melodies at their heart.

In the 1990s Neyire studied with the highly respected New York clarinettist David Weber who in turn had been a student of Simeon Bellison in the 1930s in New York City. Neyire also plays klezmer music (Eastern European Jewish celebratory and dance music) having performed with the Besht Tellers, a Jewish storytelling theatre company, in London’s West End. She also toured the Far East, Australia and Israel with them as well as sojourning by train through Eastern Europe (Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, former Yugoslavia) performing for Jewish communities, large and small.

Through these experiences Neyire became fascinated by classical music that draws on traditional and folk music for inspiration and in 2008, motivated by the Zimro story of her teacher’s teacher Bellison and his adventures through Russia and the Far East, Neyire, Paul and Daniel founded the Zimro Ensemble.

Selected Repertoire