Another day, another stunning new arts building, this one opened in April 2012 in Beijing's near(ish) neighbour Tianjin, a city setting a pace for new development in fast-growing China.
Finding myself seated behind the orchestra was an opportunity to watch the audience as well as the musicians. As in Beijing, the ushers employ laser pens to discourage those tempted to take photographs with their phones, and the hall was constructed with phone-jamming technology built in to make it impossible to use them to make calls. There was still some chatter while the orchestra played, however, until the music seduced the audience.
Loading article content
The meat of the programme the RSNO has brought on tour has now revealed its own clever construction, moving from Mendelssohn's land and seascapes in the "Scottish" Symphony, through Maxwell Davies's landscape and imagined people of his adopted island in An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise, to the portraits of real people in Elgar's Enigma Variations.
Consistent standout performances are coming from principal oboe Katy MacKintosh, who features in all three pieces, and Aleksei Kiseliov's cello section, down to seven players because Rachael Lee was taken ill just before the orchestra left Scotland, but giving definitive readings of the twelfth Variation (the tune that's better that Nimrod) each evening.
And that drunken sequence in the middle of An Orkney Wedding has taken on a life of its own, with principal trombone Davur Juul Magnussen staggering to his feet for his first slurred interjection, and David Hubbard's bassoon additions becoming jazzier by the night. Conductor Peter Oundjian may still be marking the beat, but it is a pulse the players gleefully skate around until the ensemble passage.