NOT for the first time did I find myself gobsmacked on Friday night at the virtuosity of the students of the Royal Conservatoire's Symphony Orchestra in a stunningly performed concert under the direction of Scottish Opera's music director Francesco Corti.

We have, of course, witnessed this level of virtuosity before from the student forces, in music by Mahler, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and many others.

But on Friday we experienced a different level of expertise: not one of intellectual command; not one of structural mastery; and not one of symphonic drama. This one, in a programme of music by Debussy, De Falla and Respighi, was entirely about colouring, pictorialism, nuancing and subtlety of expression.

De Falla and Debussy commandeered the subtlety and sensitivity departments, with exquisitely pliable performances of the two Three-Cornered Hat Suites, delivered with breathtaking expressive and dynamic control, while the remarkable clarinettist Fraser Langton effortlessly negotiated, in a bewitching performance, the seductively elusive turns of Debussy's First Rhapsody.

Respighi, a fantastic pictorialist, though less subtle and original than the other composers, worked by layering the colourful strands of his music. You could almost sense the students saying "nae bother" as Corti guided and stoked them up through first the Fountains Of Rome, then the Pines Of Rome, with brass to the left, brass to the right, brass on stage, brass in the balconies, and, for all I could hear in the cumulative din, in the bar on the other side of the road: a juggernaut performance, with Corti in controlled overdrive and these amazing young musicians playing with apparent nonchalance, but as though it mattered; which, of course, it did.