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PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 October, 2004, 12:00am

Edo de Waart makes his skills evident

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra - Edo de Waart inaugural concert

Cultural Centre Concert Hall

One show only, last Friday

The Hong Kong Philharmonic gave a hearty welcome to its new artistic director and chief conductor, Edo de Waart, in his inauguration concert on Friday.

A huge 'Welcome Edo' banner was unfurled high in the Cultural Centre Concert Hall at the end of the event, amid multi-coloured streamers, bouquets and the applause of an audience that was not lacking in the rich and the famous.

Though one may be cynical about the glamour and ask what will happen when the honeymoon is over, the performance and programming were surely those of a world-class conductor with a discerning taste for new music.

The concert started with American composer John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine followed by the world premiere of Chinese composer Guo Wenjing's Journeys: Poems of Xi Chuan.

The latter work's three movements charted a progression from searching and bewilderment through struggle to sublime enlightenment. De Waart's conducting revealed his understanding of the score, its changing atmosphere and subtleties. But soprano JiaLin-Marie Zhang's heavy singing did no justice to a text inviting delicate and imaginative interpretation.

The rest of the performance suffered from a lack of well-developed rapport between the orchestra and their new boss. The Fast Machine moved with energy but lacked bite, while part of Mahler's First Symphony, which filled up the second half, sounded like a patched-up version of well-rehearsed sessions.

But the performance of the symphony also had moments of beautifully whispering dynamics, cantabile string phrasing, and crisp articulation. De Waart's skills in unraveling complex texture and epic musical drama were noticeable.