Quartetto Gelato brings eclectic musical program to Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


Image: GelatoQuartetto Gelato, a hot Canadian group that takes on arias, tangos, gypsy fiddling and "Danny Boy" with equal gusto, will appear on Saturday, May 3, at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. A pre-concert "Art to Heart" discussion with Laura Nash, Ph.D., director, Fairfield University Classical Music Department, will take place from 7 to 7:40 p.m.

Since its debut in 1994, the quartet's unique blend of sparkling technique, musical variety and wit has won over sold-out audiences from New York to Los Angeles and from London to Tokyo. National Public Radio recognized the group with its 1996 Debut Artist of the Year award and its latest release, "Neapolitan Café," has been a fixture on the Billboard Classical Crossover chart since its release in April 2001.

"An amazing ensemble that achieves the nearly impossible: They play salon music with real style and classical music with real precision," the NPR panel wrote of the quartet. "Great chops and a commitment in all that they play."

Classical in intent, eclectic by design, Quartetto Gelato programs are filled with an intriguing mix of traditional masterworks, operatic arias, tangos and folk songs from around the world. The Quick Center performance will include Johannes Brahms' "Rondo Alla Zingarese," Astor Piazzolla's "Meditango," Franz Lehar's "Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz" and the crowd-pleasing finale, "Danny Boy."

The musicians' relaxed stage presence creates a pleasant rapport with traditional and non-traditional classical audiences alike. Unlike most classical ensembles, they perform with their scores in front of them, adding a sense of spontaneity and exuberance not always found on the classical stage.

Many classical radio listeners are familiar with Quartetto Gelato. "Neapolitan Café" and their previous recordings, "Quartetto Gelato," "Aria Fresca" and "Rustic Chivalry," are all mainstays on the playlists of CBC, PRI and NPR. The group is also heard on the soundtrack to the film "Only You," starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.

The quartet's lineup includes: Cynthia Steljes, oboe and English horn; Peter DeSotto, tenor, violin and mandolin; Alexander Sevastian, accordion and piano; and Kristina Reiko Cooper, cello.

Steljes, a founding member of the quartet, has performed in concert and on radio throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East, both as a soloist and chamber musician. In addition to her performing career, Steljes is an associate professor at The Glenn Gould Professional School in Toronto and is on the music faculty at the University of Toronto. She often gives oboe master classes while on tour.

DeSotto, another founding member, unleashes his natural Italianate tenor on Sicilian and Neapolitan songs and plays both gypsy style and classical violin. He played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for a decade, but is equally at home with jazz, blues, folk songs and world music.

Sevastian joined Quartetto Gelato in September 2002. A three-time winner of the International Accordion Competition, he has also won the Oslofjord in Norway, The Cup of the North in Russia and the top prize of the Accordion Teachers Guild in the United States. Born in Belarus, he has performed with the Russian Radio Orchestra and in concerts 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.

Cooper also joined the group in September 2002. Hailed by the New York Times as "sensational," she has performed as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. She is a founding member of the Whitman String Quartet, which won the 1999 Walter M. Naumburg Chamber Music Competition, and she received her doctorate in music from the Julliard School in 2001.

Reviewers may have a tough time categorizing Quartetto Gelato's music, but singing their praises comes easy.

"Their versatility would put a chameleon to shame," wrote a reviewer for the Toronto Globe and Mail. "The performances are that good."

Tickets for the Quick Center performance range from $24 to $30, with discounts for students and senior citizens. For tickets, call the box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 3, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 253