Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall After an absence of 10 years, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra made a welcome return to Hong Kong with two concerts on Sunday. The first half of the programme featured Dmitry Shostakovich's Symphony No 9. Anticipated as a paean to Stalin after the fall of Hitler, Shostakovich instead bravely produced a short work of bitter flippancy. Conductor Yvgeny Gergiev presented all five movements without a break, creating a suite of stark contrasts. The sedate opening speed both accentuated the score's details and intensified the movement's development from faux Haydn to something much more grotesque. The helter-skelter third movement was brilliantly executed, supporting the composer's view that performers would enjoy the work more than critics, while the extended bassoon solo in the following Largo produced the most attractive wind playing of the evening. The restraint Gergiev imposed on the finale accentuated the work's eventual nod to triumphalism before romping home in a truncated snub to the authorities who would shortly disown its creator. Johannes Brahms' Symphony No 4 filled the evening's second half. If the composer carries a half-classical tag, it was hardly evident from this reading, which was high-octane passion throughout. The forward rubato of the first movement produced high drama that exchanged spacious phrasing for an overall, breathless impact. It was a viable trade-off. The finale benefited most from the pervading urgency. The evening opened with the overture to Mozart's opera La Clemenza di Tito and closed with encores by Brahms and Johann Strauss.