VIOLINIST Julian Rachlin and his wife, the violist Sarah McElravy, proved a formidable musical match when they combined their talents for an enthralling concert with Royal Northern Sinfonia, at Sage Gateshead.

The centrepiece of the programme, billed as the Rachlin Double, was Krzysztof Penderecki’s Concerto Doppio for Violin Viola and Orchestra. Written specially for Rachlin, it enjoyed its UK premiere under the baton of Alexander Joel.

Rachlin and McElravy opened with an intimate cadenza, growing in intensity until the climactic entry of the orchestra.

Joel did marvellous job marshalling the orchestral forces as they tugged against each other, with plenty of percussive effects; the highlight being a mighty roll from timpanist John Poulter. Violin and viola united for a ineffably graceful melody that faded into a glistening silence.

Penderecki admitted to being inspired by Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin & Viola, so it was only natural to pair his work with it.

Leading from the violin, Rachlin opened a joyous account, before being joined by McElravy in a dialogue full of vigour and energy. The achingly beautiful slow movement was eloquently conveyed, with the soloists warmly enveloped by the orchestra.

Rachlin, RNS principal guest conductor, led a galvanised orchestra in the first half of the concert with a riveting rendition of account of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.

Schubert’s Symphony No 8 in B minor, known as the Unfinished, was anything but under the hands of Rachlin, in what was a scorching account.

Gavin Engelbrecht