THE Halle and conductor Sir Mark Elder reaffirmed their long-running relationship with audiences at the Sage Gateshead when they returned with a programme of contrasting works.

Pianist Charles Owen began the concert with a refined account of JS Bach's keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor. The first movement was invested with a keen momentum, as Owen's delicate touch was finely-balanced by the orchestral forces. Owen allowed every note to breathe in a poignant slow movement, while bubbling notes poured out in a sparkling torrent in the climax.

Edward Elgar wrote to a friend of his orchestration of JS Bach's Fantasia and Fugue how he wanted to show how "gorgeous and great and brilliant Bach would have made himself sound if he had our means". The Halle, with bolstered ranks of double basses and horns, laid out this showpiece in all its glory.

Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony enjoyed a rare outing, with Elder giving an illuminating introductory talk, before he setting out to"unlock the door to one of the great 20th century works".

In his view it is unquestionably the most emotional, monumental and titanic expression of the composer's commitment to fellow human beings.

Written in aftermath of siege of Stalingrad it is laden with profound pain, bitter sarcasm and burning anger. The audience was transfixed from its doom-laden opening statement to its ambiguous climax.

Many highlights included beautiful passages from the cor anglais, relentless martial themes and a screeching woodwinds in the third movement.

Elder painted a vivid picture that left plenty of food for thought.

Gavin Engelbrecht