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A string quartet with sunny energy for a cold winter night

Obsessions Quartet warms up the stage at St. Albert United Church
1501 Obsessions sup
Obsessions String Quartet (left to right Ronda Metszies, Joanna Ciapka-Sangster, Leanne Maitland and Yue Deng) are the headliners at St. Albert Chamber Music Society's next concert on Saturday, Jan. 18.


Obsessions String Quartet and Obsessions Octet saxophonist Kent Sangster and double bassist John Taylor

Emerging artists Emily Dawkins and Xander Jacobs

Saturday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m.

St. Albert United Church

20 Green Grove Dr.

Tickets: $30 to $35, available in person at Art Gallery of Alberta and Musée Heritage as well as online at

Every year, the Edmonton Music Awards doles out trophies to tons of local musicians based on recordings. It’s too bad there are no similar awards for live performances.

Because if there was, I would like to nominate Obsessions String Quartet. This charismatic quartet has accumulated recognition for its exceptional blended sound, musical energy and sensitivity to a composer’s intent.

As part of St. Albert Chamber Music Society presentation, this delightful foursome will play at St. Albert United Church on Saturday, Jan. 18.

Composed of Joanna Ciapka-Sangster (violin), Yue Deng (violin), Leanne Maitland (viola) and St. Albert’s own Ronda Metszies (cello), the quartet takes a lead in the concert’s first set with a series of two light classic works.

It opens with 20th century Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze’s Selections from Miniatures. Although little known to North American audiences, Tsintsadze was one of Georgia’s leading composers and was awarded numerous prestigious awards from both his nation and the USSR.

The prolific composer, who was a cellist with the Georgian State String Quartet, wrote operas, ballets, symphonies and concertos. However, it was his collection of miniatures for string quartet based on Georgian folk songs that propelled him to immediate success.

Throughout his lifetime, Tsintsadze composed 45 miniatures. The quartet selected six to play.

“The music is very folksy and accessible. At times it feels like the string quartet is impersonating folk instruments from Georgia. The thing that grabbed me is that at one point, it sounded like a dulcimer. It’s a playful piece and this quartet loves to have fun,” said Metszies.

Demonstrating its superb versatility, the quartet powers on with Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons in Buenos Aires where the soloist pushes and pulls the tempo against the steady pulse of accompanying instruments.

“It was originally arranged for violin and orchestra, but this piece was specially arranged by Jacek Sobieraj for us. Piazzolla is incredibly fun to play, but also very challenging. That’s the kind of music that warms us on cold winter days.”

Obsessions Quartet opens the concert’s second half with Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11, a piece rarely played.

“It’s very beautiful and written in a circular movement. It’s voluptuous and energetic.”

St. Albert bassist John Taylor, also a member of Obsessions Octet, next joins the quartet for two rounds of Astor Piazzolla’s works: Libertango, the Argentinean artist's most most popular tango and the groovy Tres Minutos con la Realidad (Three Minutes of Reality).

Obsessions Octet saxophonist Kent Sangster teams up with his mates for the last three charts. They include Piazzolla’s Milonga Del Angel and Sangster’s own composition, Sonny Side, a sparkling tribute to Sonny Rollins.

Emily Dawkins and Xander Jacobs, both Paul Kane High students and violinists in the Edmonton Youth Orchestra, open the concert playing Jean Marie Leclair’s Sonata Op. 3 and 4. The Baroque composer has the two violinists play off each other in lilting pastorals, graceful sarabandes and fiery jigs.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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