Royal Northern Sinfonia’s (RNS) ongoing Beethoven cycle is proving a real crowd-puller, and there was not a seat to spare at Sage Gateshead for their performance of the monumental Ninth “Choral”.

Players and soloists limbered up with a selection from Mahler’s Des Knabun Wunderhorn, with baritone David Wilson-Johnson getting into full character as a strutting hussar in Trost in Ungluk and the grumpy partner in Verlor’ne Muh. He enjoyed spirited exchanges with soprano Elizabeth Atherton

Singing with astonishing range and power, the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Diana Moore relished every vocal embellishment in Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? and savoured every syllable in the haunting Wo die schonen Trompeten blasen. The audience was simply swept away by the emotional depth of her rendition of Rheinlegenchen.

The RNS and Chorus gave a towering performance of Beethoven’s Ninth.

Conductor Nicholas McGegan's gestures were economic, but each counted as he kept an eye on the bigger picture.

Rising from quiet murmurings, the tension in the first movement was exquisitely ratcheted to a magnificent crescendo; underpinned with incisive playing by timpanist Marney O’Sullivan and great interplay between flautist Juliette Bausor and oboist Steven Hudson.

McGegan took the second movement at a brisk canter, while moulding a spacious adagio which was conveyed with mellifluous playing by the strings.

The cellos and double basses created great sense of expectation in the final movement, with Wilson-Johnson making a dramatic entrance to introduce the Ode to Joy.

The chorus sang with exultant energy and relentless drive, while the soloists projected themselves well as a unit.

The chorus were wonderfully restrained in the slow meditations, while the gigantic double fugue was delivered with gusto. The audience leapt to its feet at the climax. It was a breathtaking performance that fulfilled every expectation.

Gavin Engelbrecht