Hong Kong Philharmonic The Cultural Centre January 16 A few bars into the programme and the presence of the Philharmonic's music director was felt. David Atherton brings tremendous discipline and order, and the orchestral members always play their best under his baton. This concert was exceptional. Opening with Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, the cellos' beautifully contoured pianissimo entry set the stage for a performance of great dignity. Classical music demands control and clarity. Atherton's clear beat plus strict attention to rhythm and dynamics laid the bedrock for the subtle nuances of melody and harmony. The beginning of the development of the first movement, when the tonality shudders down to the depths, was especially powerful. In the second movement, despite a slightly shaky start by the horns, there were some very fine woodwind solos, notably Andrew Simon's clarinet solos. The soloist for the second work, Haydn's Organ Concerto No 1 in C, was Simon Preston, possibly Britain's best-known organist. Even though the Cultural Centre organ is about 17 metres away from the orchestral stage, this was a well co-ordinated performance. The episodic nature of the opening moderato was full of attractive embellishments and Preston utilised many of the organ stops. The largo movement, basically an aria by the organ over a simple string accompaniment, was followed by the humorous allegro molto, including appealing echo effects. The final work, Saint-Saen's Symphony No 3 in C Minor, is a must for any music-lover. Apart from some rhythmic disparity between the violins and violas at the beginning of the allegro moderato, and patches of poorly tuned woodwind chords, this was a momentous rendition. The scherzo was played at a great speed, but with the necessary grittiness. Astride Asia's finest organ, Preston's heart-stopping entry in the maestoso, leading to the feisty fugue sections and jubilant brass fanfares, brought the concert to a triumphant end.