WHEN you mention to a musician that you are about to visit a new or recently refurbished concert venue and they say, “I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it”, it is generally not the price of a large glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in the bar that they have in mind (although that significant detail may well have been on their radar as well).

No, the important question is the acoustic identity of the place. This holds true for all genres of music and there will be similar conversations about Glasgow’s SSE Hydro and Barrowland with rock’n’rollers as with jazz players about more intimate rooms, and orchestral musicians about concert halls. So when that was the remark of a violinist to me about the re-opened Music Hall in Aberdeen, it registered as something to note.

All three of Scotland’s orchestras have now visited the Music Hall, which was closed for rather longer than originally planned, and reopened towards the end of last year after £9m of redevelopment. Front of house, it is not hard to see where the money went. There is a bright airy new foyer and box office, glazed in bar-cafe, a restaurant, new toilets carved out of the basement, and new education space. It is all rather lovely, and a delight to find inside the columned facade of the A-listed Victorian classical building.

But the Music Hall was chiefly renowned for its lovely, intimate acoustic. It was in some ways the sort of 1200-seat space that the Scottish Chamber Orchestra wants to have as its home in Edinburgh. Older people still talk in reverent tones about Glasgow’s St Andrew’s Hall, lost to fire in the 1960s, and some Scots music fans say that Dundee’s Caird Hall is without equal, but there was general agreement that Aberdeen’s hall was something special.

Review: Scottish Ensemble/Bertrand Chamayou, Music Hall, Aberdeen, four stars

I have yet to hear an orchestra there since it reopened, but last weekend I did hear the dozen-strong strings of the Scottish Ensemble and pianist Bertrand Chamayou playing a solo recital, both as part of the venue’s Reverie weekend, focusing mostly on French music from the start of the last century. From the opening Debussy of the Scottish Ensemble’s programme, it was immediately clear to me that the hall was much more resonant than had previously been the case. It was not entirely to the detriment of the group’s sound, but very different – like listening to them in a church perhaps, which many of their fans have also done. They were making a very full sound when they wanted to, and the reverberation in the room was something that, as professional musicians, they were clearly taking into account. Chamayou did something similar the next day, quite clearly enjoying the long decay of some of his notes during the many small sections of Schumann’s Carnaval.

Unmistakably, though, this was not the much-loved Music Hall of old, and it was fairly easy to work out why – with its shiny new wooden floor and slimly-upholstered new seating, there were many more hard surfaces in the room than previously. I have since compared notes with orchestral players who have been there and there were some harsh judgements: “like playing in a bath tub,” said one front-desker.

The refurbishment of the hall was not solely about orchestral and chamber music, of course. The bulk of the seating was removed when KT Tunstall played there recently, for example. But the reputation of the hall rests to a large extent on its status as a fine classical music venue, and although local government finance in Aberdeen is as stretched as everywhere else, and cultural spending has been cut since the venue re-opened, looking again at the acoustic before its reputation is too seriously sullied would be a wise investment in the long run.