THE FINAL concert of the sixth Northern Chords Festival began, quite literally, with the throw of a large dice. It was a nod to experimental composer John Cage, whose unpredictable works featured in a programme exploring musical frontiers of the West.

In a running order left to chance, baritone Jonathan McGovern opened with a compelling performance of Barber’s Dover Beach, singing with a silky baritone that savoured every syllable.

Ives' Hallow’en, depicting children feeding a growing bonfire, became a sparkling conflagration under the hands of violinist Ken Schumann, violist Nora Romanoff-Schwarzberg, cellist Gabriel Schwabe and pianist Omri Epstein.

Festival founder Jonathan Bloxham took to the podium to direct David Bruce’s Gumboot’s Part 1, allowing its slow melody to grow organically and shaping an account of stunning beauty. David Orlowsky's warm opening on bass clarinet, joined seamlessly by violist Liisa Randalu, was a treat.

Cages silent 4’33”, though controversial, has mellowed with the passage of time. Violinist Mathieu van Bellen stood motionless, with his bow held tantalizingly above the strings, as Bloxham turned the pages of a blank score.

While everyone got into the spirit of the moment, one man made his own statement by sneaking the chance to catch up on his crossword.

Cage’s Telephone and Birds does what it says on the tin. It was pulled off with witty aplomb. You had to be there.

Pianist Walter Delahunt provided sensitive backing to Gershwin's Porgy and Bess suite.

As this year’s festival marked the centenary of the First World War, it was fitting that it should by rounded off with Korngold’s Suite for Two Violins Cello and Piano Left Hand - written for virtuoso Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right hand in the trenches.

Epstein, joined by violinists Van Bellen and Benjamin Baker, along with cellist Bloxham, put in a towering performance, spanning the full range of with keyboard with dexterity and percussive power.

A climactic conclusion to an inspiring week of music-making.