Chicago Q Ensemble's January concert at Constellation offered a rare chance to dive into the sound world of a single contemporary composer--Caroline Shaw, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music. The four string players brought passion and insight to her faintly astringent, but fundamentally lyrical works.
-"Honorable Mention" on Chicago Classical Review's Top Ten Performances of 2015
But there was nothing faintly casual about the musicians’ approach to Shaw’s demanding yet appealing music. Sitzer and Lanzilotti fully explored its quirky corners in Limestone and Felt, a 2012 work for cello and viola. The plucked melodies sounded faintly folk-like and a sense of good cheer permeated the unpredictable harmonies...At times Sitzer’s rich, brooding cello pressed against the stammering upper strings like a steady adult voice amid the clamor of rambunctious children...The combination of Sitzer’s lustrous cello and the metallic shimmer that Harpster and his drumsticks drew from an assortment of ceramic flower pots was mesmerizing. Sitzer told a funny story about how hard it is to find precisely tuned flower pots, but the result was a seriously beautiful piece of music.
-Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review, January 27, 2015
...the premiere offered many arousing moments, such as the swashbuckling theme near the conclusion of the piece, played with compelling verve by violist Biasiello, as well as a gripping second movement cello solo from Sara Sitzer.
-Doyle Armbrust, Chicago Classical Review, October 6, 2014
Quartet No. 1’s tonal melodies, suffused with phantasmal ponticello harmonics, will draw in newcomers to the genre. After a Bartokian, pizzicato second movement, the piece then returns to the realm of the ethereal in the third movement, featuring an especially opulent and well-executed solo from Sitzer.
-Doyle Armbrust, TimeOut Chicago, April 12, 2012
...Fjords is the brainchild of artists associated with Manual Cinema, a Chicago company created in 2010, and the Chicago Q Ensemble, an equally young string quartet whose repertoire ranges from Baroque to collaborations with video DJs...Aided by [Kyle] Vegter’s melodic, repetitive music, it was strangely mesmerizing and throughly modern. The women of Chicago Q Ensemble--violinists Ellen McSweeney and Kate Carter, violist Aimee Biasiello and cellist Sara Sitzer performing on amplified instruments along with percussionist Eric Streichart--found both raw energy and serene quiet in the score...The young artists behind Fjords have managed the very risky blend of an ancient art with modern technology. The result is a touching, unmistakably 21st century tale.
-Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Classical Review, February 24, 2012
The French composer Gabriel Fauré’s only string quartet, his last work, is a rarity on concert programs...Elusive, with few obvious tunes or moments of drama, it is a difficult work to bring off. But the four musicians gave a committed performance, notable for its rich, seamless quartet sound, rising to moments of great intensity in the first and second movements. First violinist Catherine Miller gave a wistful, impassioned performance of the long second movement melodic line. Also strong was the playing of cellist Sara Sitzer when the melody came her way.
-David Fleshler, South Florida Classical Review, December 13, 2010
New World cellist Sara Sitzer launched into the opening notes of Debussy’s Cello Sonata, accompanied by Joela Jones, pianist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Sitzer played assertively, hitting high notes fearlessly and exercising fine bow control to bring out the work’s variety of colors.
-David Fleshler, South Florida Classical Review, April 26, 2010
Barber’s life partner Gian Carlo Menotti was represented by his Suite for two cellos and piano, written in 1973 for Gregor Piatigorsky. Cellists Christine Christensen and Sara Sitzer displayed impressive instrumental command, playing with dark tonal hues at rapid speed, meeting Menotti’s bravura challenges head on.
-Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review, March 22, 2010
The New World served up a work from Haydn’s supreme Op. 76, but, gratefully, the infrequently heard, string quartet in G major. Violinists Melissa Chung and Martin Shultz, violist Emiko Karen Matsumaru and cellist Sara Sitzer displayed a sure handle for the gear-shifts and ebb and flow, with a neat, rustic touch in the trio of the Minuet and wit and dynamism as required...The performance was rounded off with verve in one of Haydn’s mercurial finales. The angular dance-like main theme develops an agitated head of steam before coming home to a cheerful major-key coda, and the jokes and reverses were thrown off with superb panache by the players.
-Lawrence A. Johnson, South Florida Classical Review, March 2, 2009
“...Sara Sitzer, whose cello rumbles like storm clouds...”
-Dennis Brown, Saint Louis Riverfront Times