David Greco and Vatche Jambazian
Live at Olsen Gallery
Feb 24, Presented by Live at Yours
The Olsen Gallery was an excellent venue for this intimate recital by David Greco and Vatche Jambazian, both of whom had been performing to acclaim overseas before Covid-19 grounded everyone.
After enjoying a glass of Clonakilla Shiraz and a chance to look at the current exhibitions by Tim Summerton and Michael Cusack, we sat down to the performance, which was compered by international conductor, Vladimir Fanshil, and formally introduced by the deputy Mayor of Woollahra, Richard Shields. The performers then did their own introductions, with David explaining that there was a great gap in English song writing from the time of Purcell until Elgar started writing songs with English words in the late nineteenth century.
Their recital would feature Vaughan Williams from the early twentieth century and Britten, from its mid years, plus some work by local contemporary composer, Andrew Howes, who was in the audience.
David Greco sang Britten’s songs with emotion in his mellow baritone voice, his clear diction enabling the audience to follow each particular story. He sang the opening of “The Trees they may grow so high” unaccompanied until Vatche Jambazian joined him with increasingly complex counterpoint on the piano. The accompaniment eventually became chordal, symbolising the boy’s arrested development from marriage, fatherhood and death. “Early one Morning”, a folk song familiar to many, was accompanied by a wandering, sometimes dissonant melody typical of Britten and expertly played by Vatche Jambazian.
They then performed works by Andrew Howes. David Greco sang “Morning”, which was composed in 2020 during Covid-19 lockdown as were the words by famous American poet, Sara Teasdale and is part of a song cycle, “April Songs”. Vatche Jambazian continued with “songs” without words: “The Cradle Song” (premiered by Vatche himself) and “Lakelines 3″. These were lyrical, intimate pieces for piano solo, giving David Greco a chance to relax before he resumed singing Britten.
He introduced the last two songs “Little Sir William” and “The Foggy, Foggy Dew” as being dark and quirky and he hoped his diction would explain it all. His description was apt indeed! Although both about death and slightly horrific, he managed to raise smiles, with smirks and giggles in the last song. A tribute to both performer and composer.
After an interval of more sipping and viewing artworks, the audience was treated to the main part of the evening: a recital of Vaughan Williams’ song cycle, “Songs of Travel”. These were composed between 1901 and 1904 to the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. They gave a different perspective on the Wayfarer Cycle style.
David explained that Boosey & Hawkes were initially reluctant to publish these songs, considering them unsuitable for the British public, and only published the first four initially. However, these songs were received with such enthusiasm that another four were then published. The last song was only found by his wife after his death in 1958 and was subsequently added to the cycle.
David Greco sang these with passion, opening with “The Vagabond” describing what life is like for a constant traveller. He conveyed the differing emotions of these songs with verve, while Vatche played a drumming, plodding march with his left hand and melodic accompaniment to the voice with his right. The rippling piano added to the feeling of the natural world. “The Infinite Shining Heavens” (No.6) was particularly moving, sung in David’s sweet baritone voice.
The last song, “I Have Trod the Upward and Downward Slope” sums up the cycle, with the reiteration of the plodding/marching tune heard in the first song.
This song cycle about travel was enthusiastically received by this Australian audience experiencing recent restrictions. After due applause, the performers treated us to an encore: “Der Lindenbaum” from Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise”, which David Greco recently recorded with ABC Music. Vatche Jambazian had to sight-read his score and played enthusiastically and faultlessly. David sang with passion and conviction about this tree – his German diction also faultless – a perfect ending to a truly memorable evening!”
Live At Yours are an internationally recognised group of artists from around the globe who have been brought together by COVID-19. They formed Live At Yours to offer a unique experience of world class music without the frills and formality of an overcrowded concert hall. All concerts are personally curated by expert conductor Vladimir Fanshil, and can be adapted to suit various needs. Live At Yours run an exclusive Maestro Series in private Sydney homes, and a public CBD Series with galleries, cafes, and a range of other arts and cultural spaces.
Sketches by Heidi Hereth