THE Hongkong Philharmonic's music director Mr David Atherton and general manager Mr Stephen Crabtree yesterday denied that the resignation of 14 members of the orchestra constituted a ''revenge walkout''. Breaking their silence since a January 31 report about a series of upsets which included the sacking of First Associate Concertmaster Marcus Lehmann and a fracas which resulted in Concertmaster Michael Ma receiving a serious eye injury, Mr Atherton and Mr Crabtree issued a joint statement to the South China Morning Post. In it they claimed that ''some of the players indicated their intention to leave as early as last September'' and that ''all had valid, personal reasons for departing''. ''Two are returning to the US to re-join their spouses; a married couple in the orchestra is going to study for degrees at an American university; another recently married player is emigrating to Australia; others have received job offers in America,'' the statement said. ''All of those leaving are American with the exception of a violinist who is returning to England to be married and a Chinese cellist who has decided to retire after long and distinguished service with the orchestra. ''In addition there are two players who were only on one-year contracts, one to replace a long-standing member of the orchestra who has been on a one-year sabbatical and who will return next year, the other an Acting Principal who is only playing with usfor a total of five months of the present season.'' Accordingly, ''nothing could be further from the truth'' than the suggestion that ''dissatisfaction'' among players had prompted the resignations or that there had been long-simmering resentment since 14 players were sacked on February 14, 1991 - the so-called ''St Valentine's Day Massacre.'' The official view contrasts strongly with the fear-and-loathing scenarios painted by several members of the orchestra who have spoken to the Post. Said one player: ''Mass protests over the way the orchestra is being run have been considered in the past, but people chickened out. ''After the lessons provided by the Cathay Pacific strike, they're not likely to try again in a hurry.'' Another player pointed out that while there might be a variety of reasons for the latest departures from the orchestra, ''there is nothing to encourage loyalty''. Ironically, a clause added to the players' contracts in 1991 states that they can be dismissed for being ''disloyal'' to the orchestra. Other grounds for instant dismissal include talking to the press and showing insubordination to the music director.