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
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
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