California-based quartet loves Ottawa’s heat



Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Violinist Geoff Nuttall, foreground, and cellist Christopher Costanza practice at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church yesterday afternoon. The St. Lawrence String Quartet performed last night and will perform again tonight at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church.


For the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Ottawa’s International Chamber Music Festival is the hottest event of its kind — in more ways than one.

Nothing beats Ottawa’s heat say the California-based group — who played for a full-house at Dominion-Chalmers United Church yesterday.

The festival is known for its heat, said violinist Scott St. John. “A lot of these churches get really hot,” added cellist Christopher Costanza.

“Between the crazily wild performing classical musicians and the bodies in the hall, the temperature rises significantly,” said Costanza.

The sticky atmosphere gives Ottawa’s chamber music enthusiasts a chance to prove that they are some of the most devoted fans around.

“The temperature gets really hot and you think they’re going to leave, but they come back for the second half,” Costanza said. “That’s really something.”

Formed in 1989 in Toronto, the quartet has performed across North and South America, Europe and Asia. Today, the group consists of Costanza, St. John, Geoff Nuttall and violist Lesley Robertson, who took leave for the summer to be replaced by violist Daniel Panner.

It’s usually difficult to slot another musician in. But the St. Lawrence String Quartet members go way back.

“The music world is small,” said Costanza. “We’ve crossed paths at various times and places.”

Now artists-in-residence at California’s Stanford University, the quartet has played Ottawa’s Chamberfest Festival since it began.

This summer, the quartet has 15 major works in its repertoire that members are performing at venues across North America, including the Bay Chamber Concerts in Maine and the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York City.

Tonight’s concert at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church features Ludwig van Beethoven’s string quartets opus 130 and opus 132.