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Music

Quartetto Gelato in a Holiday Concert

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November 18, 2003 :: No. 112

Who: PAIR (Professional Artists in Residence) Celebrity Series presents
   
What: Quartetto Gelato in a Holiday Concert
Cynthia Steljes—oboe, English horn
Peter De Soto—tenor, violin, mandolin
Alexander Sevastian—accordion, piano
Kristina Reiko Cooper—cello
   
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003
   
Where: Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton
   
Program: Masters in This Hall/The Dargason ........ Gustav Holst
Shepherd’s Dance (“Amahl and The Night Visitors”) ........................................................................ Gian Carlo Menotti
Gesù Bambino ........................................... Pietro Yon
Konzertstück Opus 79 (finale: The Feast) ......................................................................... C.M. Von Weber
Passacaglia ................................................. Handel/Halvorson
Romanian Caravan .................................... traditional
Concerto Fatto per la Notte di Natale ...... Archangelo Corelli
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas ....................................................................... R. Blane & H. Martin
Zither Carol Variations ............................. traditional/Steljes
Silent Night Story ...................................... Franz Gruber
Music for a Sleigh Ride...................... Leroy Anderson/various
O Holy Night ............................................... Alphonse Adam
   
Background:

The acclaimed ensemble Quartetto Gelato returns to Orange County after its 1998 debut performance with a new program of holiday music inspired by the full range of emotions enjoyed at this special time of year. Selections range from secular to sacred, classical to popular, and are performed as instrumentals and vocals that also include poetry and dialogue. Songs and carols are sung in styles ranging from that of Mel Tormé to Luciano Pavarotti.

Since its debut in 1994 Quartetto Gelato has won the hearts of audiences worldwide with a unique blend of sparkling technique, musical finesse and humor. In recital and with orchestra, Quartetto Gelato has become an international favorite with sold-out repeat performances in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Milan, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong among others. Classical in intent and eclectic by design, Quartetto Gelato’s programs are filled with an exciting mix of traditional masterworks, operatic arias, tangos, gypsy fiddling and folk songs from around the world. The quartet’s relaxed stage presence establishes an immediate rapport with traditional and non-traditional classical audiences alike.

Unique in the classical world, they perform without scores, giving their performances a sense of spontaneity and exuberance rarely seen on the classical stage.

Active in the recording studio, Quartetto Gelato will soon release “Quartetto Gelato Travels the Orient Express” following the original journey of the famous train and featuring music from London to Istanbul. Their previous release was “Neapolitan Café” (QG Recordings/Silva Classics), which has been a fixture on the Billboard Classical Crossover charts since its release in April 2001.

This disc features a range of joyous and introspective pieces that transport the listener through a Mediterranean afternoon of Italian and English song, rustic instrumentals, virtuosic showpieces and original compositions. Their previous recordings on the Marquis Classics label, which have played a significant role in the group’s increasing popularity, are “Aria Fresca,” “Rustic Chivalry” and their debut recording, simply entitled “Quartetto Gelato.” The latter two CDs have literally been heard around the world, since they accompanied Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk during his NASA flight on board the space shuttle Columbia in 1997. Quartetto Gelato can also be heard on the soundtrack recording of the major motion picture “Only You” starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. Additionally, they have appeared on the hit CD recording of Ashley McIsaak on the A & M record label.

Classical radio listeners across the continent know Quartetto Gelato by their instantly recognizable sound, which is broadcast frequently on the CBC, PRI and NPR networks. In particular, the band has been featured regularly on NPR’s popular “Performance Today” program, which recognized Quartetto Gelato in 1996 by presenting them with their award for “Debut Artist of the Year.” The panel of music critics who made that selection characterized the quartet as “an amazing ensemble that achieves the nearly impossible: they play salon music with real style and classical music with real precision; Great chops and a commitment in all that they play.”

As universal as Quartetto Gelato’s appeal is through their captivating performances, so is their search for talent. In September 2002, founding members Cynthia Steljes (oboe, English horn) and Peter DeSotto (tenor, violin, mandolin) invited Alexander Sevastian (accordion, piano) and Kristina Reiko Cooper (cello) to join Quartetto Gelato.

Cynthia Steljes (oboe, English horn) continues to popularize the oboe through her work with Quartetto Gelato. She displays not only “breathtaking virtuosity” (Chicago Tribune) but also plays “with tremendous expression and grace” (Milwaukee Journal). Steljes has performed in concert and on radio throughout North America, Eastern and Western Europe and the Middle East as both soloist and chamber musician. Her main teachers have included Rowland Floyd at the University of Ottawa, Harry Sargous at the University of Michigan and Leslie Huggett. Steljes is associate professor at The Glenn Gould Professional School in Toronto and at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. In addition, she is often asked to give oboe master-classes while on tour with Quartetto Gelato. Last season Steljes appeared as guest soloist with the Toronto-based ensemble Amici, the Erie Chamber Orchestra and the Toronto Chamber Orchestra.

“Whenever Peter DeSoto (tenor, violin, mandolin) unleashed his natural, Italianate tenor – usually in Sicilian and Neapolitan folk songs – I found tears springing to my eyes.

It hardly seems fair that he’s also a whiz violinist who tossed off a gypsy number at dizzying speed” (National Post). De Soto is a remarkable talent who combines the facilities to perform as a gypsy virtuoso and as a refined classical violinist who played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for ten years. In his youth, his interests took him through jazz, bluegrass and world music.

De Soto also has the vocal prowess to sing a full range of repertoire from familiar folk songs to the great Italian operatic arias including Turandot’s “Nessun Dorma”: “...credible Pavarotti stand-in” (Stereo Review). This season De Soto will perform the role of Alfredo in Verdi’s “La Traviata” with Opera York. De Soto plays an Ansaldo Poggi violin generously donated by James Wallenberg.

Alexander Sevastian (accordion, piano) is three-time first prizewinner of the International Accordion Competition. He won the Oslofjord in Norway (1998), The Cup of the North in Russia (2000) and the Accordion Teachers Guild competition in the United States (2001). Sevastian was born in Minsk, Belarus and began his studies on the accordion at the age of seven. In 1991 he attended the Glinka Musical College in Minsk. His advanced studies took him to the Gnessin Academy of Music in Moscow where he received his Masters in Performance degree, studying with renowned performer and pedagogue Friedrich Lips. While at the Academy Sevastian also studied piano, conducting and philosophy. He began his professional career in Moscow in 1996, performing with the Russian Radio Orchestra. He has performed as recitalist and soloist with orchestra throughout Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy and Japan. Highlights include performances at The Kremlin, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama. Sevastian and his family moved to Canada in April 2001. He continues to challenge himself and is currently enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Performance program at the University of Toronto where he studies with Quartetto Gelato’s previous accordionist Joseph Macerollo.

Hailed by the New York Times as “sensational,” Kristina Reiko Cooper (cello) has performed as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. Reiko Cooper’s recent and upcoming concerto appearances include the Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Osaka Symphony, the San Salvador Symphony, and a tour of Asia with the Tokyo Yomiuri Symphony. Reiko Cooper has been a resident at the Marlboro, Aspen and Spoleto USA music festivals and has also appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Reiko Cooper is a founding member of the Whitman String Quartet, first prizewinner of the 1999 Walter M. Naumburg Chamber Music Competition. In the spring of 2001 she received her Doctoral of Musical Arts degree from the Julliard School.

“Quartetto Gelato’s performances have a warm, endearing quality”—The New York Times

“Light programming, like comedy, is serious business. Quartetto Gelato has the stuff. Dry humor and occasional clowning are part of the quartet’s arsenal, yet first it meets the requisite virtues of skilled music-making. It’s pleasure-giving is consistent.”—Los Angeles Times

   
Tickets: Advance sales $20 & $25 ($2-off on advance sales with Titan discount — full time students, senior citizens or CSUF ID). At the door all tickets $25 & $20
   
Box Office: Performing Arts Center box office 657-278-3371 (11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Mondays-Fridays) or on the Internet at www.tickets.com
   
Internet: www.pair.fullerton.edu or www.quartettogelato.com
   
Media Contact: Elizabeth Champion, College of the Arts at 657-278-2434


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