The four gentlemen of the Rastrelli Cello Quartet began working together in 2002 and have devoted themselves ever since to exploring and experiencing the cello’s world of sound. They are committed to tradition, but completely uncoupled from the conventional approach, which only serves as a solid foundation. Since then, the ensemble has built up a unique and broad repertoire, the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else.
The very personal bond that the quartet has with its home city of St. Petersburg is manifest through the name they chose for their ensemble, inspired by the 18th century architect responsible for a number of prominent historical buildings in St. Petersburg. Bartholomeo Rastrelli shaped the image of the city in northern Russia like no other.
The Rastrelli repertoire consists almost exclusively of arrangements by Sergio Drabkin, one of the quartet’s founding members. Under the artistic direction of the charismatic virtuoso, Kira Kraftzoff, Drabkin’s refined compositions lead the quartet on a journey through an individual and often unexpected musical landscape.
Each of the gentlemen contributes his unique character, experiences and perspectives to the overall picture, and so two of the artistic director’s former students, Mischa Degtjareff and Kirill Timofeev, also members since 2002, contribute to the quartets ongoing success.
The four Rastrelli cellists only perform music that they themselves love—that’s a matter of absolute conviction when it comes to putting together their programs. The quartet usually treats its audience with a mixture of arrangements of chamber music works, orchestral classics, and standards of cello literature, as well as popular music, jazz, klezmer or tango.
The listener experiences a thundering symphony orchestra when Modest Mussorgsky’s “A Night on the Bald Mountain” sounds from the stage, and is then tenderly embraced by “Andante Cantabile,” a Russian folk song which Peter Tchaikovsky arranged for string quartet. Perhaps you will hear the “Zigeunerweisen” by Pablo de Sarasate or Drabkin’s “Paganissimo,” which offers every musician plenty of room for virtuosity. Speaking of which… showy virtuosity is an ever-present element which continuously accompanies the musical encounter. At the same time, Rastrelli display in a unique way the incredible diversity of their instrument.
The art of transformation becomes, without exception, an authentic adventure in sound for the listener. There are always four cellos and yet you think you are hearing an old piano playing ragtime, a saxophone of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, or Piazzolla’s bandoneon.
The Rastrelli Cello Quartet has recorded eight CDs to date, which present very diverse styles of music and give an extensive survey of the repertoire of the ensemble. The CD “Cello in Classic” was nominated for the “Record 2008” in Russia and won the silver award, only behind Luciano Pavarotti’s “Pavarotti Forever” (Universal Music). Two of the albums were produced together with the clarinetist, Giora Feidman, with whom the quartet has had a long term artistic collaboration.
Since its inception, the quartet has been a guest on festival stages, concert halls and radio stations worldwide. These include the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Mariinsky Theater St. Petersburg, Lincoln Center New York, Beethoven Festival Bonn, Beauvais Cello Festival (France), Rheingau Music Festival, Oberstdorfer Musiksommer, Meadowlark Music Festival in Lincoln / Nebraska (USA), European Music Festival Sofia (Bulgaria), Boswiler Summer Festival (Switzerland), Ohrid Summer Music Festival (Macedonia), Linköping Music Festival (Sweden), Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, Rio International Cello Encounter Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and the Bucharest Sonoro Festival (Romania).