Baritone singer David Greco concert review whatson Sydney classical music with Australian Haydn Ensemble at City Recital Hall.


4 ½ stars

Sydney had an unexpected treat last night when the Australian Haydn Ensemble presented a unique program of rarely heard music. Titled “Die Stille Nacht” the crowd were expecting a fairly predictable line-up of well known Baroque pieces. Instead, the music was collected together from obscure corners of the earth over a period of 2 years. It was an elegant mix of instrumental and operatic arias. Some of the music arrived hand written on manuscript and had to be transcribed into modern notation.


Guest artist Baritone David Greco joked about it being a bad idea to hand a microphone to an Opera singer but, we are very pleased they did. Greco offered excellent introductions to the vocal work, priming the audience with background information that increased the appreciation for the works many times over. We wish he’d played MC for the full concert as we were left without much info on the instrumental works.

Perhaps there wasn’t much to say about some of these pieces as, even in the program notes there is little on offer. The first half of the concert was dedicated to Vivaldi, a composer whose compositions always seemed to flow like water.  Most often identified with string music, Vivaldi was also kept very busy writing operas in Venice. Fifty of his operas have been found so far though, in at least one letter, he spoke of more than 90 operas.

The concert opened with a flourish in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings in F major RV136. A brief work with an early catalogue number (the catalog lists more than 800 works!). It is likely this work was composed during his time as music teacher at Ospedale della Pietà, a type of foundling hospital for children who were orphans or from poor homes. The Concerto presented as a simple, cheery work, absolutely delightful and a great way to introduce the ensemble.

Many of the artists were performing on historic instruments creating a sound that was warm, intimate and muted, not overly ringing or loud as modern instruments are designed to do. This drew us in as if we were all toasting our feet by the fireplace at a cosy salon. The second movement had the two violins (Director Skye McIntosh and Matt Greco – brother of Baritone David) in conversation with each other. The overall effect of the ensemble was one of refined sophistication.

David Greco began with a lively recitative, the chamber setting allowing him to fully communicate the character’s thoughts and feelings free from a staging Director. He immediately seized attention and filled the City Recital Hall with his voice demonstrating expert precision and articulation. His second aria, from the oratorio Juditha Triumphans, paired him with Baroque flutist Melissa Farrow. The duet was sublimely elegant and gentle as a Summer breeze.

Farrow lead the ensemble in Vivaldi’s Concert for Flute in G minor RV 439 which featured an unusual long trill that fluttered at speed, then slowed and sped up again. Also interesting when two of the seven movements were lead by double bass and cello in beautifully subtle tones.

The first half closed with another couple of Vivaldi arias. David Greco is such a great story teller filling the music with life and yet, when the ensemble was playing, he stayed very still so as not to distract. It was a very thoughtful and collaborative gesture rather than stealing the scene throughout. The final piece was the high drama “Gelido in omni vena” from the opera Farnace. It tells the unbearable story of King Pharnaces of Pontus who has ordered his wife Tamari to kill their son and then herself. Greco’s interpretation was so striking, all else was forgotten in the moment. It’s a knockout aria and very understandable that the opera was such a great success in its time.

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Hand written music score used by Viola player Karina Schmitz, Australian Haydn Ensemble in Die Stille Nacht at City Recital Hall, Sydney

After interval, the program shifted to a Telemann Sonata that romped along at a delightful pace. It was the first chance to hear an all too brief solo from viola player Karina Schmitz.

Greco returned to the stage for extracts from Telemann’s extraordinary, sacred Cantata “Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus (Die Stille Nacht) telling the story of Jesus at the Mount of Olives working his way through the emotions of the upcoming last supper and crucifixion, filled with dread and then final acceptance. It was yet another brilliantly chosen work to showcase Greco’s talents in story telling and, this time, expert German.

To relieve the pressure of the drama, Farrow returned to the stage performing with the ensemble the Concert for Flute in B minor by Johann Adolph Hasse. The two violins with flute were so joyful and really unique. Greco closed the concert with a charming little piece by Biber, Der Nachtwächterlied or the Nightwatchman’s Song assuring us that “All’s safe and all’s well”.

The applause was keen and lasting for the Australian Haydn Ensemble. The program is so beautifully curated, interesting throughout and a great showcase for the artists. Greco really shone this evening and will have gained many fans and followers, not just in the theatre but with Australian Digital Concert Hall who broadcast the performance.

Grab a ticket if you can. Continuing upcoming performances include Canberra 22 June, Berry 23 June and Southern Highlands on 24 June. Highly recommended.

Related Links

Australian Haydn Ensemble season for 2023:

Australian Digital Concert Hall:

Whatson at City Recital Hall:


Director: Skye McIntosh

Guest Artists: David Greco, Melissa Farrow

Ensemble: Matthew Greco, Karina Schmitz, Anton Baba, Pippa McMillan, Anthony Abouhamad


Concerto for Strings in F major RV 136 – Vivaldi

Recitative and Aria from Armida al campo d’Egitto ‘Chi alla colpa’ – Vivaldi

Aria from Juditha Triumphans ‘Veni veni me sequere fida’ – Vivaldi

Concerto for Flute in G minor RV 439 ‘La Notte’ – Vivaldi

Aria from La Silvia ‘Orribile lo scempio’ – Vivaldi

Aria from Farnace ‘Gelido in ogni vena’ – Vivaldi


Sonata à 4 in A minor TWV 43:a5 – Telemann

Selections from Cantata Der am Ölberg zagende Jesus (Die Stille Nacht) TWV 1:364 – Telemann

Concerto for Flute in B minor – Hasse

Serenade à 5 and Aria Ciacona: ‘Lost Ihr Herrn’ from Der Nachtwächterleid in C major – Biber