Classical Notes: OSO and Quartetto Gelato show their gypsy colours

The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra took the unusual step of featuring an established quartet for its Exotic Flavours concert.

On Thursday, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra took the unusual step of featuring an established quartet for its Exotic Flavours concert.

Instead of having to obtain music scores, OSO musical director Rosemary Thomson also took the equally unusual step of having the quartet bring sheet music for the whole orchestra.

The popular Quartetto Gelato, who have already performed in Vernon with the North Okanagan Community Concerts, is a Toronto-based “new classical” group which performs all over the world.

Formed in 1989, the quartet is currently composed of founder Peter DeSotto (tenor, violin, mandolin), Alexander Sevastian (accordion), Colin Maier (oboe), and Lydia Munchinsky (cello).

All four are accomplished concert performers, and they’ve cut eight CDs. Their first two discs went on board the space shuttle Columbia, courtesy of Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk.

Between them the quartet performs an eclectic mix of classical masterworks, operatic arias, tangos, folk songs from around the world, and especially gypsy music. Their repertoire is vast, yet they play without musical scores.

After the orchestra’s crowd-pleasing opener, Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville, the quartet joined them for a traditional Roumanian gypsy piece: Romamolda Hora.

The hora is a type of circle dance from Eastern Europe that is popular during wedding celebrations and festivals, especially in rural areas. These pieces usually begin quite slowly, even seductively, then pick up speed as excitement builds. This one was no exception, and ended at a thrilling pace.

The four solo instruments blended beautifully, both with each other and with the orchestra. This, to me, was true gypsy jazz, also reminiscent of Klezmer music, sometimes called Freilech music (translated as “happy music.”) And happiness was the flavour of the evening.

Along with the orchestra, Quartetto Gelato played more than a dozen pieces, occasionally even resorting to horseplay during the music.

There was Astro’s Canto a Voce Piena, sung by tenor DeSotto. Described as bel canto (“beautiful song”), it depicted a lover singing below the balcony of his beloved.

And there was the ‘50s classic Volare, a love song in which Italian singer-songwriter  Domenico Modugno, who co-wrote the piece, describes the feeling he has, which resembles flying when with his lover.

Gipsy Rhapsody, a well-known piece by Victor Gridin, featured four-time world champion accordionist Sevastian, who uses a button accordion with nearly three times as many buttons as a piano has keys.

He informed us that in his world, “you have to be fast and loud,” and his dazzling finger work produced a tour-de-force performance.

Here, the orchestra scoring was maybe too rich – with more of a Hollywood sound than from Eastern Europe.

The second half brought us Pasculli’s Oboe Concerto – a piece requiring Colin Maier to use circular breathing as to produce a continuous sound without pauses. (The Guinness world record for one continuous note is 47 minutes!)

The last piece of the evening (before the encore of O sole mio) was another traditionally stirring gypsy piece Roumanian Caravan.

We were told that this always produces a standing ovation. And, of course, it did.

– Jim Elderton is a freelance writer and filmmaker who reviews the Okanagan Symphony season for The Morning Star.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A structure fire was reported in Eagle Rock Mobile Home Park in Armstrong Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Contributed)
WATCH: Fire in Armstrong mobile home park

Residents reported a large structure fire broke out at 9 p.m.

The  Vernon Magnums fell to the Kamloops Broncos 18-6 in Southern Interior Football Conference Atom  Division play Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (Devin Rodger photo)
Vernon Magnums slide against Kamloops in slippery football Sunday

Vernon put in a strong defensive effort but fell 18-6 to Kamloops over the weekend

Community Futures North Okanagan hosted free virtual valley-wide seminars during Small Business Week. (Contributed)
Organization equips Okanagan businesses with pandemic tools

Community Futures sees success in its all-virtual Small Business Week seminar series

Dr. Steve Piper, owner of Monashee Health Collective, is leading an applied research project to develop an app that will help health professionals connect with patients in real time. (Contributed).
Okanagan researchers developing app to connect patients with practitioners virtually

The prototype holistic wellness app will be tested and launched over the next six months

Two have been taken to hospital following a vehicle crash north of Vernon on Highway 97 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Crash north of Vernon causes Highway 97 traffic delays

Emergency crews respond to two-vehicle incident near Swan Lake; occupants taken to hospital

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
UPDATE: Flames doused for second time at fatal Penticton apartment fire

The Elm Ave. building first caught fire around 4 a.m., killing two people and displacing dozens

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Penticton apartment fire claims two lives

An apartment on Elm Avenue went up in flames Tuesday morning

A Summerland woman has set up an online fundraiser to provide backpacks to those being released from correctional facilities.(
Summerland woman raising money for backpack program

Backpacks will be distributed to those being released from correctional facilities

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
15 cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna Francophone school outbreak

Three other schools in Kelowna are also dealing with potential exposure events

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

Most Read