THE reviews in the Austrian, Italian, Slovenian and German press of last week’s European Tour dates by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra have not yet reached me, but I have recently seen the ones that the orchestra won when the SNO played in Bregenz and Innsbruck 50 years ago.

Touring is only now returning to occupying a regular place in the schedule for the orchestra. Players had to have been in the line-up for the best part of 20 years to have visited cities on this tour previously, but chief executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan told me that he hopes to maintain a regular commitment to two or three weeks of every year spent beyond the orchestra’s home turf.

The benefits of doing that are self-evident. Playing in different environments hones technique and makes musicians more sensitive to the requirements and possibilities of the concert halls they use.

Not only do the players get to know one another better professionally and socially on tour, and often concentrate on repertoire in a way that the weekly domestic schedule does not allow, they also see more of their conductor and guest soloists. The sad truth – and it was certainly the case this time – is that they often see more audience as well. To kick off the tour with sold-out concerts in Austria, greeted by enthusiastic appreciation, obviously makes the rigours of travelling there seem well worthwhile.

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Back in October 1967 there was assuredly a feeling that the orchestra was representing Scotland in Europe, even if there was no Scottish Government to back that aspiration with hard cash. A deal of fund-raising had gone into sending the SNO, then under conductor Alexander Gibson, to the places where much of the music it played had originated. There is a pioneering spirit about the tone of The Herald’s coverage of the tour (sadly I don’t know the name of the lucky chap in my shoes back then), and just a hint of surprise about the quality of the music-making in the reviews in the local press.

The company the orchestra took with them should have been a hint though. Janet Baker sang Mahler’s Ruckert-lieder in Salzburg and Kindertotenlieder in Innsbruck and Bregenz. All those concerts began with Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, but they ended with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4, Prokofiev 5 and Sibelius 2 respectively. Other dates heard Brahms 2, Britten’s Purcell Variations and the Walton overture Portsmouth Point.

If that seems a lot of music, there was much more.

When the mezzo-soprano wasn’t there, the soloist was none other than Jacqueline du Pre, and the Schumann, Dvorak and Elgar cello concertos all featured on the itinerary – the very pinnacle of orchestral repertoire for the instrument. Du Pre was at the height of her international fame at the time, and the dates with the SNO may well have been her first European appearances after she was most in the news. Accompanying her on the tour, but not playing, was her new husband Daniel Barenboim.

READ MORE: Review: RSNO, Kulturpalast, Dresden

Then, as now, the Middle East was a powder keg and the couple had effectively eloped to be married in a Jewish ceremony away from the eyes of the world just before the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt. It seems, however, that there was no necessity for, or thought of, special security arrangements for the newly-weds as they journeyed from city to city with the Scottish National Orchestra.

You may have read of another wedding, happening in London during this RSNO tour as the band journeyed from Italy into Slovenia. Perhaps its anticipated bridge-building message will turn out to half as eloquent as Daniel Barenboim has been in the years following his first wife’s early death, especially with the international touring of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra he co-founded with Palestinian academic Edward Said. Perhaps.