ALTHOUGH it was surely tiresome for orchestra managers in Scotland, there was a reason why arts journalists were forever asking about their "succession planning", as the modish phrase now terms it. Orchestras often moved at glacial pace to fill vacancies on the podium – or indeed in the ranks – and there has been a perceived reluctance to reveal contractual details about the terms agreed with conductors, far less speculate about their likely renewal or who might fill a crucial artistic role at the agreement's termination, even with posts substantially funded from the public purse.

What a sea-change there appears to have been of late, though. We await any word from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra about the principal conductor to follow Robin Ticciati after his much-trumpeted final season, but Thomas Dausgaard's appointment at the BBC SSO, succeeding Donald Runnicles, emerged swiftly, and the RSNO sprung the news of Thomas Sondergard's musical directorship from 2018/19 upon a largely unprepared press. (Is there another Danish conductor called Tam out there for the chamber orchestra, one wonders?)

With Sondergard moving up a step from Principal Guest Conductor to succeed Peter Oundjian, that left the RSNO with another conducting post to fill. But not for very long. This week the national orchestra named 30-year-old Elim Chan from Hong Kong as their new Principal Guest, and her progress from new face to the second-top job has been meteoric by the standards of the classical world. Although she made history as the first female winner of the biennial Donatella Flick Conducting Competition in 2014, and with it an assistant conductor's post with the London Symphony Orchestra, she was unknown to most in Scotland when she took on two smaller RSNO concerts in Kirkcaldy and Musselburgh in January of this year. A fortnight later, however, she was back on the podium in Glasgow and Edinburgh, called on to replace Neemi Jarvi after the veteran former RSNO Principal Conductor had to pull out of the engagement on medical advice. That would not have happened had the players not been enthusiastic, although the self-effacing Ms Chan apparently sought assurance from orchestra leader Maya Iwabuchi on that point.

This week she said: "I sensed a magical connection between the musicians and me that allowed us to make music in such a natural way, and I am grateful for everyone's openness and kindness to me."

She told me she had no hesitation in accepting the short notice concerts, particularly as she was allowed to change the programme to play to her own strengths as well as that of the musicians.

"There was something already there from the first time, although it was my debut as a 'young and up-and-coming' conductor. But I hadn't done Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony and it had to be something I was strong at. The RSNO has a long and glorious history and the romantic repertoire is in their blood. We were all very comfortable with Rachmaninov's Second Symphony – and it is a great vehicle for a young conductor."

Asked what she would like to conduct in her future three-programmes-a-year and it is the big stuff that she mentions first – Mahler, Bartok, Stravinsky – before quickly adding in an enthusiasm for the "colourful" music of Ravel and Mendelssohn of her first concerts, and an enthusiasm for contemporary music by up-and-coming composers. And just as Sondergard spoke of a desire to tour the RSNO to Scandinavia, Chan dreams of travelling through Asia with the band.

You would be foolish to wager against any of that coming to pass as the RSNO makes the most of its young signing. Ever since the SSO selected Ilan Volkov, then in his mid-20s, to follow Osmo Vanska, the age profile of those in the top jobs here has fallen markedly. Not only is there more young talent out there, but orchestras have realised that, if they dither, the person they have been watching with interest might be snapped up by someone else. If all this sounds a little like the world of sport, I imagine that thought dismays admin departments too.

But with many young faces at the section principals' desks in all our orchestras, it was only a matter of time before that was reflected on the podium, and it only speaks of rising standards across the board, and around the globe.