Albert Halls, Stirling

Keith Bruce, Four stars

IF THERE is a statute of limitations on wishing one another a Happy New Year it was not yet in force in Stirling on Thursday as the RSNO reached the end of a short tour of its Viennese Gala to venues it rarely visits.

As her predecessor in the post, Jean-Claude Picard, impresses with the precision of his direction of the orchestra of Scottish Ballet for the revival of The Nutcracker, so current RSNO assistant conductor Holly Mathieson brings clarity and transparent appreciation for the elegance of the music to the seasonal diet of Strauss waltzes. Not to criticise the fine line-up of guest conductors we have seen already this season, but we do not see her often enough on the podium, where she was also a very informative emcee. This was a concert of charm and sophistication, miles from the barn-storming arena-filling approach that others have inflicted on these beautiful tunes.

As Mathieson pointed out, the programme also ranged well beyond Vienna, notably in some of the selections performed by guest soprano Soraya Mafi. Her young career on the opera stage has been characterised by a refusal to be pigeon-holed by a specific era of music, but the repertoire here suited her vivacious voice perfectly. The sun whose rays are all ablaze (aka The Moon and I), from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, perhaps sat rather oddly in the programme when compared with her other songs, but the Bell Song from Lakme by Leo Delibes was the first half showstopper with the Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus repeating that function after the interval. I’d guess that hits on her website probably spiked on successive days in Langholm, Dunfermline and Inverness as well as Stirling this week.