Quartetto Gelato is a classically-trained ensemble with an eclectic repertoire that ranges from Brahms, Bach and Weber to Argentinian tangos, gypsy music and much more. The group was formed in Toronto in 1992 by Peter De Sotto (violin, tenor, mandolin) and Cynthia Steljes (oboe, English horn), along with George Meanwell (cello, guitar) and Claudio Vena (violin, accordion). In 1998, Vena was replaced by Joseph Macerollo (accordion), who passed the chair to his star student Alexander Sevastian in 2002. Following Sevastian’s untimely passing in February of 2018, Canadian musical powerhouse Charles Cozens stepped in, joining the group for which he has written and arranged numerous works during its long history. Since 2009, Quartetto Gelato has enjoyed continued commercial success and fan loyalty, due to the addition of Colin Maier (oboe, clarinet, violin, 5-string banjo, electric/acoustic bass, flute, guitar and musical saw, also a Cirque de Soleil acrobat and professional actor) and Kirk Starkey (cello), evidenced in consistently stellar reviews and the honour of being chosen Best Classical Artist at the 2010 INDIE Awards.
Quartetto Gelato was formed as a result of a weekend-long engagement that De Sotto – 10-year veteran of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra – and Steljes accepted at a rural inn. From its earliest days, the quartet embraced the cross-pollination of classical and popular music, one of the first classical ensembles to do this successfully. In 1996, the group won broad attention by being named “Debut Artist of the Year” by US National Public Radio’s Performance Today. Quartetto Gelato developed large new audiences with their informal onstage personalities, performing without scores and injecting humour and informative banter between pieces, all while maintaining an extremely high level of skill and artistry.
Widespread international touring has taken Quartetto Gelato around the world, performing repeat tours in Korea, Japan, the US, the U.K., Italy, Russia and more. They have appeared with major Canadian orchestras (Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra London, Calgary Philharmonic, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and more) and several in the United States (eg. the Sioux City Orchestra, the Green Bay Symphony). The group’s popularity has been broadened further by extensive radio play on the CBC Radio One and Radio Two networks, as well as by an appearance on fiddler Ashley MacIsaac’s, Hi How Are You Today? (1995), and inclusion on the soundtrack of director Norman Jewison’s Hollywood film, Only You (1994, starring Marisa Tomei & Robert Downey Jr.).
The ensemble’s first recording, Quartetto Gelato, was released in 1995 and nominated Best Classical Recording in that year’s Juno Awards. This was followed by 1996’s Rustic Chivalry, with both recordings establishing the group’s signature cross-over blend of classical and folkloric material. Aria Fresca (1998) is a collection of opera arias showcasing De Sotto’s voice and Neapolitan Café (2001) features Italian pop songs. Quartetto Gelato Travels the Orient Express (2004) traces the great 1883 train expedition route with music from London, Paris, Budapest, Vienna, Bucharest and Istanbul. Favorite Flavours (2005) is a compilation of popular concert pieces, and Musica Latina (2009) and The Magic of Christmas (2010) are self-explanatory. This year, a pet project came to fruition with the release of their 9th CD: All Original 100% Canadian, a collection of original works written specifically for Quartetto Gelato by some of their favorite Canadian composers. These CD’s have sold in excess of 200,000 to date, a remarkable figure for a classical chamber group. In 2007, Quartetto Gelato released its first DVD, Quartetto Gelato: A Concert in Wine Country, which is still regularly broadcast throughout the US on the PBS network. Their first two CD’s accompanied Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk during his NASA flight on board the space shuttle Columbia in 1997, redefining the claim of being heard around the world.
This newest release, All Original 100% Canadian, features works by composers Rebecca Pellett, Hilario Duran, Michael Occhipinti, Howard Cable and Jossy Abramovitch, who have all worked with Quartetto Gelato to create a uniquely Canadian collection of works in an equally uniquely “Quartetto Gelato” style. QG believes strongly in the composers that they have been working with, and use touring dates to expose these important artists to North American and international audiences.
Peter De Sotto is a remarkable talent whose chameleon-like abilities allow him to perform on the violin not only as a seasoned classical violinist but also as a dazzling gypsy virtuoso. If that is not enough, the real surprise is his fabulous tenor voice, which ranges from South America, to authentic Irish folk, to the great romantic Italian songs and arias including Turandot’s Nessun Dorma. De Sotto has been referred to as “a credible Pavarotti stand-in” (Stereo Review). Peter has appeared in leading roles in numerous opera and theatre productions and was a member of The Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 11 years. He was voted Musician of the Year in 1999 by the Toronto Musicians’ Association.
“Whenever Peter De Sotto (tenor, violin, mandolin) released 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 violin wiz who tossed off a gypsy number at dizzying speed.” (National Post)
Not only is Peter “an amazing violinist capable of playing any style of music convincingly” but he has “one of the most gorgeous voices I have ever heard. I couldn’t believe any one person could possess that much talent.” (Glenn Dicterow, concertmaster, New York Philharmonic)
Charles Cozens won the accordion world’s prestigious Coupe Mondial in New York City at the age of 16, and since then has developed into an internationally acclaimed arranger, composer, conductor, pianist and producer.
His writing, conducting and production credits among many others include The Nylons, The Canadian Tenors, The Canadian Brass, Quartetto Gelato, David Foster, many Canadian Symphony Orchestras, The Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, The Russian National Cinema Orchestra, over 80 CD recordings for Universal, Sony, CBC SM 5000, Attic, Solitudes, Avalon, Reflections and Jazz Inspiration and a plethora of musicals including Beauty and the Beast, Cats, Miss Saigon and Fiddler on the Roof.
Some of Mr. Cozens special career highlights include a Command Performance for HRH Queen Elizabeth as an Arranger and Composer with the Ontario Youth Concert Band (London, 1984), and as Conductor for The Duke Of Edinburgh Awards, HRH Prince Philip (Toronto, 2004: Mozart and Bach program with members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra).
A veritable one-man orchestra, Colin Maier also plays clarinet, English horn, violin, 5-string banjo, acoustic/electric bass, piano, saxophone, flute, guitar and harmonica. He is currently working to master the kitchen sink.
Outside music, he is a dancer, actor, stuntman, singer, choreographer, acrobat and martial-artist. Colin had the honor of playing the devil fiddler in the flying blue canoe for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies. He has been seen in shows such as Lord of the Rings, Forbidden Phoenix, Cirque du Soleil, Amadeus, Cats, A Chorus Line, and Sarah Brightman’s World Tour.
“There’s nothing this guy can’t do... he has brought a lot theatricality to Gelato’s live performances,” said De Sotto, adding Maier’s athletic abilities have been played out on stage, literally. “There’s one piece where he plays an Italian cadenza while jumping on two chairs, and at the hardest moment, we pull the chairs apart until he does these Van Damme splits.”
After completing classical cello studies in the US and Germany, Kirk Starkey has pursued a unique career as cellist, composer and producer. Kirk’s solo album, Songs of Sudbury (2016), was produced with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts. No stranger to collaborations outside of classical music, Kirk’s original music bears the influence of a musician writing and performing in many genres.
“One of Canada’s most inventive cellists today.” (CBC Radio 2)
An active recording cellist, recent work includes performances and arrangements on countless records including Juno-winning Glorious Sons, Ash and Bloom, Rehan Dalal, Emma-Lee, and Lou Rhodes (Lamb), and live performances with Stephen Page, Justin Hines, Elsiane and Peter Gabriel. A featured solo performer/composer at the International Cello Festival of Canada (Winnipeg 2011), Kirk was featured in a live solo performance broadcast on CBC’s The Signal.
In the role of producer, Kirk specializes in recording on location in beautiful spaces. He has albums released on Hidden Pony Records and Musica Omnia. His clients include in the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Twin Within, Valerie Tryon, Suzanne Shulman, Bud Roach, Capella Intima, Paul Marleyn, Christiaan Teeuwsen and Shoshana Telner. A frequent contributor to television programs, Kirk can be heard on X Company (CBC), Flashpoint (CTV), and Hannibal (NBC). His collaboration with Tonmeister and composers, Daniel Dettwiler and Ramon de Marco (Basel, Switzerland), is in permanent installation in the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany.
Kirk performs on a newly restored Bohemian cello (c.1775) on generous loan from Hildegard Battista.