Quartetto Gelato — left to right: Colin Maier

Quartetto Gelato — left to right: Colin Maier

Around the world, to outer space and back

Quartetto Gelato bringing its electric, eclectic style of New Classical to Cranbrook

Barry Coulter

“T he Cirque de Soleil” of quartets — one of the top New Classical quartets performing today, is coming to Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre, to heat up the autumn for us.

In a career spanning 22 years, Toronto-based Quartetto Gelato has become renowned for their musical versatility and multi-instrumentalism. Their music has been to outer space (Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk took their first two CDs with him during his NASA flight on board the space shuttle Columbia), they’ve provided soundtracks for Hollywood (Norman Jewison’s “Only You”), and they’ve sold more than 150,000 records worldwide. The group has become a leading edge of the emerging “New Classical” movement.

Founding member Peter De Sotto, the quartet’s vocalist and violinist explained in a recent interview with the Daily Townsman that “New Classical” as the term applies to Quartetto Gelato has to do with soloist’s encores of old.

“When I think about Fritz Kreisler or Jascha Heifetz, at the end of a concert they would play (an encore) and the encore would take more work than the rest of the program, because it had to be either incredibly touching, poignant or romantic, or they had to be quite brilliant and virtuosic, between three and 10 minutes — relatively short pieces,” De Sotto said.

“As a kid I would go to a recital, and listen to all the meat and potatoes — which I loved — then it would get to the end, to the encores. And I often felt that why couldn’t this go throughout the whole program.

“So we decided that this was going to be our format.”

As a result, over the years Quartetto Gelato has developed a reputation for virtuosity and ferocity in their performances — with a genre-busting style that incorporates mix of classical masterworks and operatic arias with tangos, gypsy music, folk songs, Italian music and other world themes.

And this style is very evident in the quartet’s new album — their ninth — “100% Canadian: All Original.”

De Sotto is very excited about the new album’s production and release, which features diverse Canadian composers creating works for the Quartet.

“I’m overwhelmed with how well this came out,” he said. “The neat thing about this album is that this is our first all original album. These are Canadian composers who are all composing in the eclectic style of Quartetto Gelato. So each one was instructed to compose something in the style of Gypsy, in the style of Ennio Morricone … there’s one piece in the style of Gordon Lightfoot.

“Hilario Duran has a three movement suite on it — so obviously Cuban music. Rebecca Pellett wrote this piece incredibly beautiful suite called Amori, and in this piece I feel I’m listening to Ennio Morricone.

Jossy Abramovich has written a Gypsy suite for the album — Gypsy music being a strong influence on the quartet, De Sotto says.

The record also includes pieces by Michael Occhipinti, Charles T. Cozens and Howard Cable.

“It was a pleasure to do this album. Of all the albums we’ve ever done, possibly I’m most proud of this.”

De Sotto adds that the group will be showcasing the music on the new album on their tour — which includes the stop at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre Sept. 28.

With Quartetto Gelato, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. De Sotto took a moment to speak about himself and his bandmates.

De Sotto himself took up the violin at a young age, playing with his violinist father, who he cites as his greatest influence. “I played violin with the Toronto Symphony for 11 year. Then I found out that I had a voice, and that’s when I formed Quartetto Gelato, and since recorded all the major arias (De Sotto has studied Voice with major instructors across North America).

“Liza McLellanis our cellist — very theatrical, a very interesting player. A great soloist and a brilliant chamber musician.

“Colin Maier is our secret weapon — he plays 15 different instruments. Usually when one plays 15 different instruments, they’re jack of all trades master of none, but I assure you that he’s a master on all of them.

“Alexander Sevastian is a world renowned accordion player.  Alex really holds the band together. He’s got an incredible mind that can digest a whole concerto in one week.

“I don’t think there’s anything like us. There’s no one who offers as many different varieties of music.”

The Quartet has been as busy as they’ve ever been, touring around the world with stops in Korea, Mexico, the United States and Canada on the itinerary.

“I’m happiest when I’m on stage,” De Sotto said. “I feel a sense of energy, and I feel I can communicate on stage stronger than in my regular life with words. When your audience is listening to you, they’re also listening with faith, and notes are inconsequential, so it’s easier to take that leap of faith.”

Quaretto Gelato touches down in Cranbrook on Sept. 28, taking the stage at the Key City Theatre at 7:30 p.m.

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