RICHARD Strauss’ Don Quixote, charting the fantastical exploits of the eponymous hero, was conveyed in vivid sonic technicolour by the Halle, at Sage Gateshead.

Conductor Sir Mark Elder made the musical journey all the more meaningful with an enlightening introduction and the use of a screen with suritles to guide the audience through the action.

Cellist Nicholas Trygstad’s depiction of Quixote was full of character, while violist Timothy Pooley, along with bass clarinet and tenor tuba, provided a perfect foil as the fretful squire Sancho Panza.

The Don’s encounter with the windmills was delivered with brilliant comic timing, while the woodwind players made a great job of imitating the bleating the sheep the knight mistakes for an advancing army.

There was plenty of knockabout fun when Don encounters a parade of pilgrims and charges in to rescue the statue of Mary, thinking it to be a damsel in distress. The last movement faded out with a serene finality.

The second half of concert saw a rare outing of Edward Elgar’s Second Symphony, with Sir Mark making a compelling case for the lengthy work.

The first movement heaved with restless energy, while the emotional largetto – thought by many in the composer’s circle to relate to the sudden death of two of his close friends – was wonderfully moulded. The third had muscular punch while the final movement closed with a radiant quietness. Elgar was bemused by the less-than rapturous reaction of the first audience who, he remarked, “sat there like a lot of stuffed pigs”. The Sage audience was anything but, and showered the orchestra with applause.

Gavin Engelbrecht