Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall Edo de Waart, who will become the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's artistic director and chief conductor next season, held two highly anticipated preview concerts on Friday and last night. Many of the city's classical music luminaries, including composers and critics, attended the concerts, which gave the audience a taste of the selection for 2004-05. The Philharmonic seems to have come to an artistic standstill in the present season, languishing without a chief conductor, but it appeared almost transformed under the internationally famous maestro's baton, displaying a sparkling and focused tone. The violins still had a conspicuous rough edge, especially near the end of Brahms' Symphony No11 - the central work of the concert - and there were some obvious slip-ups in horn and woodwind solos. But the orchestra did give a cogent and refreshing performance of Brahms' masterpiece. The concerts did not reveal a high-voltage or visionary conductor, but de Waart's classical shaping lit up the Brahms. Masterly pacing enlivened the codas of the first and last movements, which culminated in mighty soundscapes. De Waart opened the Friday night concert with a rare performance of a 20th century composition, Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, in which he elicited a hushed tone from the strings. Although the off-stage trumpet and the quartet of flutes could have conveyed the questioning and tortured aspects of the work more profoundly, the overall atmosphere was well maintained. Schumann's Piano Concerto followed; soloist Andreas Haefliger had a wobbly start, but instances of seamless rapport with the orchestra followed.