Quartetto Gelato. Chamber ensemble with an eclectic repertoire that ranges from Brahms to Argentinian tangos and gypsy music. Quartetto Gelato was formed in Toronto in 1992 by Peter DeSotto (tenor, violin, mandolin, b 1958); Claudio Vena (violin, accordion, b 1960); Cynthia Steljes (oboe, English horn, b 21 Oct 1960, d 29 Dec 2006); and George Meanwell (cello, guitar, b 1952). In 1998 Vena was replaced by Joseph Macerollo (accordion), who passed the accordion chair to his student Alexander Sevastian (b Belarussia 2 Oct 1976) in 2002. Kristina Reiko Cooper replaced Meanwell in 2002, and was succeeded by Seattle native Elinor Frey in 2005. Steljes' successor was Israeli-born clarinetist Shalom Bard.
Quartetto Gelato was formed as a result of a weekend-long engagement that DeSotto - a 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, signing a management contract in 1993 with Bernie Fiedler, whose clients included Bruce Cockburn and Liona Boyd. Onstage, the ensemble's links to pop music were reinforced by the absence of musical scores and the quartet's informal presentation. In 1996, the group won broad attention by being named "Debut Artist of the Year" by US National Public Radio's Performance Today. "We want to show that Mozart had a pure pop sensibility," said Meanwell in 1995. "He performed in bars when he was young, playing chamber music" (Maclean's, 10 Jul 1995).
The group's popularity was broadened by widespread touring, frequent play on CBC Radio One and Radio Two networks, an appearance on fiddler Ashley MacIsaac's Hi How Are You Today? (1995), and their inclusion on the soundtrack of director Norman Jewison's film Only You (1994). Subsequently, the group performed music for Sergio Navarretta's film Looking For Angelina (2005). Also in 2005, the group appeared at the Stratford Festival, performing Love You Forever (lyrics by children's author Robert Munsch, music by Marjan Mozetich). In 2007, the group released its first DVD, Quartetto Gelato: A Concert In Wine Country, which was broadcast throughout the US on the PBS network. Quartetto Gelato have performed with the Winnipeg, Edmonton, and other symphony orchestras.
Its first two recordings, Quartetto Gelato (1995) and Rustic Chivalry (1996), established the group's signature cross-over blend of classical and folkloric material. Aria Fresca (1998) was a collection of opera arias featuring DeSotto's voice. Neapolitan Café (2001) featured Italian pop songs and Quartetto Gelato Travels The Orient Express (2004) collected traditional songs from the route of the famous train. In 2005, Favourite Flavours gathered the most popular songs from the quartet's first five CDs.