January 2, 2014 The West Australian:

 

"Viennese pop baton passes to safe hand With Mark Coughlan at the helm, and yacht sails draped across the choir stalls, some of Perth's most accomplished soloists sailed on to the Perth Concert Hall stage. This was a New Year's Eve to remeber - and for the best reasons.

 

With an astonishingly precocious command of the keyboard, 11-year-old Shuan Hern Lee delighted in the first movement from Grieg's Piano Concerto (which he has also performed in Russia and the Ukraine). It brough the house down. This young man is clearly on a fast track to the stars.

 

In the opening measures of Tchaikovsky's much-loved Waltz of the Flowers, William Nichols, the youngest member of the Vienna Pops Orchestra, played the introductory harp arabesques faultlessly. And in violinist Rebecca Glories's hand, the fiendishly difficult measures of Moti's Czardas flashed into pulsing life. It was stylistically impeccable.

 

An often delightful evening included Mark Coughlan, conducting from the keyboard, in a finely introspective account of the slow movement from Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. Louise McKay is best known to Perth audiences as associate principal cello in the WA Symphony Orchestra. On Tuesday, she demonstrated her formidable bowing technique and agility on the fingerboard in Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody. It was a model performance.

 

Hungarian soprano Judit Molnar - now based in Brisbane - sang no fewer than six solos; her account of Vilja, from Lehar's The Merry Widow, was most meaningful. In the first half, Molnar wore a sumptuous blue ball gown and, after interval, a more revealing black dress.

 

Throughout the evening, audience goodwill was almost palpable. especially after concertgoers were asked to rise and shake the hands of their neighbours. 

 

Unusually, a number of the items on the program had, at best, a tenuous connection to Vienna such as the Grieg concerto, Dvorak's Song to the Moon and an extract from Bizet's Carmen.

 

For decades, the Vienna Pops concerts were a much-anticipated event under the benevolent guidance of John Christmass.

 

Those events, too, invariably drew impressive crowds and raised significant monies for good causes sponsored by Rotary. If Tuesday's concert is any pointer to the future, then this annual, much-loved event is in safe hands."

 

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© 2021 by Shuan Hern Lee