THE Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) landed in Beijing to deliver its fourth concert in an embrace of the country's new cultural revolution.
The orchestra flew from Shenzhen into Beijing's spectacular new airport on the afternoon of New Year's Day. The coach journey from there to the city included sight of the juxtaposition of a giant BMW car showroom appropriately adjacent to the slightly perplexing Chinese Businessman Museum, with a branch of Tesco visible in the distance.
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Everywhere, members of the orchestra witnessed the lightning speed of change in this country, with the physical changes reflected in the creative industries behind the RSNO tour. For one, the partners of the orchestra in this venture are all private businesses rather than arms of the state.
The state still takes an active interest in the programming, and every concert programme has to be submitted to a local cultural bureau for approval, and – outside Beijing itself – that local bureau has to have its decision ratified from the capital.
The whole process takes 40 working days, and there was only just enough time in the case of the RSNO's visit for the logistics of the tour to be completed.
In Beijing, however, the glass domed NCPA venue is state controlled and security was tighter than elsewhere, with the musicians confined within the building between rehearsal and performance.
While other venues on the tour have been impressive, the acoustic in this concert hall, which celebrated its fifth birthday last month, was as sensational as its architecture. Details of the strings and wind instruments in Mendelssohn's Symphony No3 and Elgar's Enigma Variations were audible with unbelievable clarity. However, it was the appearances of the members of Scotland's National Youth Pipe Band that again drew the loudest cheers in another concert that ended with the Chinese audience, in a sold-out auditorium, on their feet. The concert is being streamed at www.ncpa-classic.com for seven days from today.
Keith Bruce writes from backstage on the RSNO's tour of China in Saturday's Herald