FOR the 400 subscribers to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s concert season who accepted the invitation to the band’s home rehearsal and performance space on Tuesday evening, things may not look so very different on the surface. The shape of the newly-launched season brochure for 2018/19, and indeed of the season itself, is much like the current one. The mugshot on the cover is of new music director Thomas Sondergard, who takes over from Peter Oundjian at the end of the current season, but the Dane is hardly an unknown quantity, having made the move to the top job from being principal guest conductor.

But he is the latest face in a changing of the guard at the top of the RSNO under chief executive Krishna Thiagarajan that has also seen the arrival of a new finance director, Angela Moreland, some new faces on the board, and, perhaps most significantly from an audience point of view, the move of front desk violinist and associate leader Bill Chandler to the post of Director of Artistic Planning and Engagement.

The new season is Sondergard and Chandler’s first as the main cogs in the artistic machine, and they both see the orchestra as in crucial phase of its development, with opportunities on all horizons.

Chandler is thriving on the new relationships he is building with soloists and guest conductors, with the youthful Elim Chan stepping into Sondergard’s previous role, and veteran early music specialist Sir Roger Norrington choosing to retain his RSNO association as he reduces his workload.

“You tread a tricky line in embracing fresh initiatives without alienating core followers,” says Chandler, but it is clear that, alongside his liaison role with those who complement Sondergard’s work with the orchestra, fresh initiatives are what he finds exciting.

Those include partnerships with Abertay University in Dundee on using new technology to engage with new audiences and with record companies to stream music in high definition sound as well as making recordings available as hard copies. Working four different labels, as well as being a featured orchestra on Classic FM, and taking advantage of the possibilities that were built in to the new RSNO Centre, Chandler thinks his colleagues are among the most recorded musicians in the country. Meanwhile his travels to talk to partners for the orchestra’s touring schedule include China, Japan and Korea, while the fees the RSNO can now command in the US and elsewhere are moving the organisation into a different league across the globe, one in which two major tours each year becomes a lucrative target.

“It is Thomas’s aim to solidify the orchestra’s reputation as a major force. He is now in a position to take on the sort of core repertoire that is usually the preserve of the MD. There are some restrictions on what a principal guest can do – now he becomes the architect.”

The conductor himself is clear that he is fine-tuning an orchestra that is already in concourse condition.

“I want to focus on the bigger repertoire,” he says, “but now I get to work more deeply, dig into more detailed work with more rehearsal time, and get to know the orchestra in a different way.

“Not that there is currently anything lacking, but you can take the time to make the brass bloom in a certain way for example. It is so much easier to rehearse with an orchestra in its own space and we can do more sectional work, and see how different composers think of the different sections as a unit. And in the long term that does make a different sound to an orchestra.”

Sondergard featured a Danish winner of Cardiff Singer of the World in his debut season with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and was the conductor of that orchestra when Scot Catriona Morison won the title last year, so it is no surprise that she features in his first as music director of the RSNO. He is also keen to add to the recorded legacy of the orchestra and follows in the footsteps of Neemi Jarvi after this week’s concerts with sessions for Richard Strauss’s epic tone poem, Ein Heldenleben.