THE Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under baton of Vasily Petrenko, took an audience at Sage Gateshead on a whirlwind musical journey to hell and back with a scorching rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonic Fantasy after Dante.

A dark ominous opening suggested the beginning of the inferno, while strings emulating the souls of the damned screamed in anguish. Petrenko unleashed the full power of the orchestra in the final section, which seemed to suck the atmosphere into a swirling vortex, before a thunderous climax.

Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto, written during the composer’s Hollywood heyday, makes full use of romantic melodies from his film scores.

Violinist Elena Urioste drew out the expansive themes of the first movement before an explosive cadenza. The shimmering opening to the slow movement was conveyed with supreme sensitivity, with intimate passages of gossamer lightness.

Urioste burst from the blocks for a scintillating finale, relishing laser sharp exchanges with the orchestra, before a breathtaking sprint to the finishing line.

Petrenko’s depiction of Modest Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, as arranged by Maurice Ravel, was a kaleidoscopic tour de force.

Images of talking skulls, dancing chickens, ancient castles and a witch who lives in a hut with hen’s legs were vividly conjured up. Petrenko gave the pictorial elements a broad-brush treatment, while at the same time taking care of the finer detail.

The Great Gate of Kiev began with dignified restraint and opened out grandly, before bringing the show to a close with an explosive bang.

Gavin Engelbrecht