Royal Northern Sinfonia’s incoming musical director Lars Vogt returned to Sage Gateshead to unveil an exciting new classical season taking in a series of musical journeys and to give an audience a taste of what is to come.

Janacek’s Concertino was a fitting opening, with Vogt holding court over a small ensemble for an intimate musical encounter.

The vivid depiction of a child’s playful experiences in company of wild creatures, opened with a great take on a grumpy hedgehog by horn Peter Francomb.

The fidgety squirrel in the second movement was brilliantly conveyed in sparkling exchanges between Vogt and clarinettist Timothy Orpen, while the argumentative passages of the final movement ended in a spirited resolution.

Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A showcased Vogt’s impressive talents as both director and soloist.

His incisive opening statement was followed by the swooning reply of oboist Steve Hudson, leading into a beautiful rendition of the lyrical passage known as Clara’s theme - in reference to the composer’s wife.

Vogt nursed the chamber music moments, with the orchestra sensitivity embracing his playing and responding to his every inflexion.

The amorous dialogue between piano and orchestra in the slow movement had a natural grace and flowed seamlessly to a thrilling finale.

Vogt moulded a masterful account of Dvorak’s Symphony No 8, investing each nuanced phrase with freshness and vitality.

One could sense an electrifying connection between the RNS and their new director.

Vogt has certainly won the hearts of players and audience alike in what promises to be a long and fruitful musical relationship.

Gavin Engelbrecht