We were about to hear a performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony, and had just listened to a brilliant performance of Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto with the stylish Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud as soloist.
As we raved about Kraggerud and Deneve's wonderful band, there was a passing comment from one of our wee enclave, who is a player in the RSNO. The player remarked, rather wistfully I thought, that she wished the RSNO would play Mozart, and that she really enjoyed playing the great Austrian's music.
But the RSNO doesn't really do that any more. Of course there is the odd performance of Mozart's Requiem, and an occasional outing for the sublime Clarinet Concerto. But once again we are confronted by the facts, theories and opinions of orchestral practice within the last 50 years. By and large, symphony orchestras no longer include much, if any, of Mozart's music in their concert repertoire. That is an absolutely extraordinary fact; or so it might appear to an outsider who was aware of Mozart's universal reputation. "You mean to tell me that this Austrian is reckoned by some to be one of the greatest classical composers of all time but doesn't get his music played by our big, glitzy symphony orchestras?" Er, no, he doesn't; not really.
So much has happened in the last 50 years. The mass audience has developed an insatiable appetite for red meat: big-boned, red-blooded, high-fibre Romantic music, whether Brahms or Dvorak, the opulence of Richard Strauss, the seething intensity of Sibelius or the world vision of Gustav Mahler. And Shostakovich, of course, has swept his devotees before him.
One way or another, the more classically proportioned music of composers such as Haydn and Mozart has been nudged further and further towards the touch line by the big bruisers of the Romantic era. However, it's infinitely more complex than that. The rise and rise of the chamber orchestra as a species that has taken Mozart under its wing, along with pretty much everything else, has tended to make symphony orchestras that lay their woolly mitts on the Salzburg master sound like bloated, turgid leviathans.
Symphony orchestras haven't necessarily helped themselves, I must say. I recall coming out of an SNO Prom concert in the Kelvin Hall, decades ago, where whatever Mozart was on the menu had been served up in a thick, sluggish and frankly lazy manner. I also remember commenting to a chum that I wasn't far from suggesting that the SNO should just give up playing Mozart altogether and leave him to the leaner, trimmer chamber orchestras.
Nowadays, wheels have gone full circle and everybody does everything in pretty much any way they want. Within the last five years or so I have reviewed two new recordings of Mahler's Fourth Symphony, music as Romantic as Romantic music gets. The recordings had one thing in common: both featured playing in what is now termed a "historically informed" style. Turn that on its head and there is not a reason on God's Earth why symphony orchestras, with their massive string sections scaled down a bit, should not rehabilitate Wolfgang Amadeus into their repertoire; and the evidence for that was right through to the core of that Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra performance that recent Monday night. It had nothing to do with performance style; it had everything to do with the clean, elegant and classy playing of the ensemble.
The RSNO should be well placed to take on a challenge. They have Jim Clark, iconic leader and the man who really laid the building blocks for the current SCO classiness. And they have music director Peter Oundjian, a former violinist and one-time leader of the Tokyo String Quartet. Well-armed? I should say so. Will they do anything about it? I doubt it. Even one, meticulously prepared Mozart orchestral masterwork, scrupulously placed within the winter season? Hmm. I wonder.