Cecilia String Quartet

Min-Jeong Koh, violin
Sarah Nematallah, violin
Caitlin Boyle, viola
Rachel Desoer, cello

Hailed for its “powerful” (Chicago Sun-Times) and “dauntingly perfect” (Berliner Zeitung) performances, the Cecilia String Quartet performed from 2004 to 2018 for leading presenters around the world as one of Canada’s most celebrated classical ensembles. Engagements included performances at such renowned venues as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, Beethoven-Haus in Bonn Germany, Prague’s Rudolfinum, the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University, and London’s Wigmore Hall. CSQ’s live concert recordings have been broadcast on more than a dozen international public radio networks, including Australia (ABC Classical FM), Canada (CBC/SRC), the United States (WQXR), Germany (DeutschlandRadio), and England (BBC Radio 3). 

The CSQ has recorded four albums for ANALEKTA. The group’s debut album of music by Dvořák in 2012 was acclaimed for its “deeply felt imperativeness” (The Strad), and its 2013 recording featuring music by Janáček, Berg, and Webern, was applauded for “unleashing the ecstasy and angst of the music” (Gramophone Magazine). The Quartet’s 2016 recording of string quartets by Felix Mendelssohn was nominated for a JUNO Award, and was named as one of Gramophone Magazine’s 10 Best Mendelssohn Recordings.

Prize-winners at several international competitions, including Osaka (2008) and Bordeaux (2010), the Cecilias were awarded First Prize at the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC), where they also won the prize for the best performance of the commissioned work. Their commitment to new works can be seen through their project Celebrating Canadian Women in Music, a spotlight on a ‘quartet’ of immensely talented female Canadian composers that involved four new commissions that the CSQ premiered and performed across Canada, the United States, and Europe.

Enthusiastic educators and mentors to the next generation of chamber musicians, the CSQ members have individually held teaching posts at festivals, conservatories, and universities across Canada and the United States. As the James D. Steward Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music from 2016 to 2018, the CSQ members were each adjunct professors who worked with music performance majors. The group also engaged in collaborative projects with the Composition Department and Department of Humanities. Initiatives developed by the CSQ at the University of Toronto include the Music Mentorship Program, and the String Quartet Composition Competition.

Deeply committed to outreach, the CSQ began developing educational presentations on classical music and the string quartet while it served as String-Quartet-in-Residence at San Diego State University from 2007 to 2009. Over the course of their 14 year career the group conducted hundreds of educational presentations across Canada, the United States, Italy, and France. The Quartet presented for a wide variety of organizations, such as the Monarch School for Homeless Youth, Veteran’s Village for Homeless Veterans, Learning Through the Arts at the RCM, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The CSQ also developed a series of concerts called Xenia Concerts that were customized to appeal to, and be welcoming of, children on the autism spectrum and their families. This organization is now a registered charity under the direction of CSQ violinist Sarah Nematallah. More information can be found at www.xeniaconcerts.com

Min-Jeong Koh plays on a ca. 1767 Joannes Baptista Guadagnini violin, and Rachel Desoer performs on a 1929 Carlo Giuseppe Oddone cello, both on loan from an anonymous donor.

The Quartet would like to express its deepest gratitude and appreciation to the anonymous donor, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council for their years of generous support.

May 2018


Min ColorMin-Jeong Koh, Violin

Praised for her “extreme versatility” and “simply unbeatable beauty of tone” (Berliner Zeitung), Min-Jeong Koh maintains a busy schedule as a concert violinist, violist, and as an educator. Prior to joining the quartet, she was the second prize winner of the 2006 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, where she was also awarded the Prize for Best Performance of the Commissioned Piece, a winner at Canada Council’s 2009 Musical Instrument Bank Competition, and a soloist with the Banff Festival orchestra.

A passionate educator, Ms. Koh has extensive experience teaching violin, was a panel speaker at a Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association conference, and worked closely with Mimi Zweig in the String Pedagogy Workshop at Indiana University. Her dedication to performance and music education has led to an invitation to the national honour society, Pi Kappa Lambda, and most recently Ms. Koh was invited to teach undergraduate violin students at Wilfrid Laurier University to fulfill a sabbatical post. Ms. Koh holds a Doctoral of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Toronto where she researched the proliferation of Canadian string quartets. Through the generosity of a private benefactor, Ms. Koh performs exclusively on a ca. 1767 Joannes Baptista Guadagnini violin.

7291 copySarah Nematallah, Violin

Applauded by the Globe and Mail (Toronto) for her “velvety sound” and the “fine-grained fluidity of her playing”, Sarah Nematallah is a founding member of the Cecilia String Quartet. She has performed internationally as an orchestral and chamber musician for organizations such as the Verbier Festival and the Banff Summer Arts Festival, and has appeared as a soloist in Canada and Spain. During her studies in violin performance, Ms. Nematallah was the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, including the University of Toronto William and Phyllis Waters Graduating Award given to a graduating student deemed by the university to have the greatest potential for making an important contribution to the field of music.

Committed to education, Ms. Nematallah completed a Masters Degree in Music Education at the University of Toronto, where she researched topics related to music philosophy and cognition, especially connections between music and language. She has given presentations on topics related to music performance and education for organizations such as the Canadian Arts Presenting Organization (CAPACOA) and Chamber Music America. During her time with the CSQ, Ms. Nematallah played on the 1851 Jean Baptiste Vuillaume on loan from an anonymous donor.

7265 cropCaitlin Boyle, Viola

Caitlin Boyle is originally from Dundas, Ontario. She began playing the viola at age three at the Hamilton Suzuki School of Music. Subsequently she completed her Bachelor of Music at the Glenn Gould School, with Steven Dann; an Artist Diploma at the Hochschule fur Musik Muenchen, with Hariolf Schlichtig; a Masters of Music at San Diego State University, with Brian Chen; and a Graduate Diploma at McGill under the guidance of Andre Roy. She has played with the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and the Munich Symphony Orchestra. Her passion for chamber music was fostered at the Southern Ontario Chamber Music Institute and the Domaine Forget Chamber Music Sessions, and continued to grow through the support of such artists as Richard Lester, Terence Helmer, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. She has been a member of the Cecilia String Quartet since spring 2006. She is currently working towards completing her Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Toronto, where she is working with Kathy Rapoport. She plays on a viola made in 2002 by Joseph Curtin. In her spare time she enjoys bike riding, reading, and the theatre.

7665 cropRachel Desoer, Cello

Rachel is a cellist from Hamilton, Ontario. She graduated from Oberlin Conservatory in 2008 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Rachel also attended the Juilliard School, McGill University and rounded out her education at The Banff Centre. Most passionate about chamber music, she has had the opportunity to study with some of the greatest chamber musicians of our time (St. Lawrence, Orford, Vermeer, Borromeo, Brentano, Colorado, and Takacs string quartets). Rachel has performed in a wide variety of ensembles and musical styles. As a soloist, she has performed with the Oberlin Orchestra and the National Academy Orchestra. As an orchestral musician she participated in the Institute of Orchestral Studies of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Rachel has collaborated with dancers, composers, jazz musicians, vocalists, and film-makers, as well as performing many solo recitals. She has had the good fortune to tour Europe and China and compete in the 5th Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. Rachel Plays on the 1929 Carlo Giuseppe Oddone cello, on loan by the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank.