Australian Haydn Ensemble

Friday 14 March 2014

Bowral Series 2014, Concert I

Last year for the first time this new Ensemble came to St Jude’s to play, twice. I finished the review of the second performance, on 17 August, with these words: “Thus we can be grateful for this relatively new group; may they prosper and may they return soon.” They did indeed return, and will return, again and again during this year.

The program presented the performance on Friday night as Haydn’s Surprise, Symphony No. 94. The Ensemble again was just that, with six of their regular players and David Greco as a baritone soloist. All of these Ensemble members, while still young, are impressively credentialed with considerable local and international experience. Thus they are highly professional and combine to provide beautiful period music on mostly period instruments.

There unfortunately was need for the group’s professionalism after completion of the first piece, a Sinfonia for strings by Carl Frederich Abel, a contemporary of J S Bach and Haydn, like them German of origin who then lived and worked in London. The second piece also was by Abel, a Concerto for Flute, with Melissa Farrow the soloist. Unfortunately shortly after commencing there was not so much a surprise as considerable distraction: one of the violinists had a major problem with broken strings and/or collapsed bridge. This of course required attention and while repairs were made the program was adjusted.

Thus we moved to what was listed as the first work after the interval: a Cantata for voice by John Stanley. He was a celebrated composer and musician in 18th Century England, remarkable in that he was left nearly blind after an accident at the age of two yet completed extensive studies and became very accomplished. David Greco was the soloist, with a beautiful baritone voice, clear, strong and powerful yet suited to the rather small venue of the Church.

Following the interval we were treated to the Abel concerto for Flute, with Melissa Farrow the soloist with her copy of a ca. 1750 Palanca flute. What can be said? This too was a beautiful performance with Melissa Farrow demonstrating the breadth of her experience and capacity.

The final work was Haydn’s Sympathy No. 94, Surprise adapted for a chamber ensemble.  For me this was the highlight of the evening in part because it was a long time since I had heard this wonderful work; and partly because it was played in such a clear, lively manner.

What more can be said than that it really was a most enjoyable evening of great music and wonderful performers. We therefore are fortunate in the Southern Highlands to have this Ensemble ready to come and perform for us. And this is going to happen again this year, twice, as set out below in the Ensemble’s brochure. I would encourage anyone at all interested to make the most of the opportunities to hear this accomplished young Australian group.

Stanley Croker