ROYAL Northern Sinfonia violinist Bradley Creswick has performed Vaughan William’s famous The Lark Ascending about 60 times in concert halls around the world, making it one of his signature pieces.

So, his last Lark as leader of RNS, before his retirement at the end of the season, was bound to be something very special.

Performing to a packed audience at Sage Gateshead, Creswick took flight in every sense, with an immaculate rendition of the work; soaring ever higher with bucolic trills and fluid sustained lines.

The last bars, leaving the violin, like the lark, solitary and rising ever higher until out of sight, was conveyed with a gossamer wisp that seemed to fade into the stratosphere. A transfixed audience savoured the silence, before showering Creswick with thunderous applause.

The programme, titled Creswick’s Aviary, included a lithe account of Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie Overture and lively performance of Respighi’s The Birds.

Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s intriguing Cantus Articus Concerto for Birds and Orchestra featured bird sounds taped in the Arctic circle. Their songs were wonderfully blended with the winds and strings.

The evening’s bird theme would not be complete without Haydn’s Symphony No 83 “The Hen”. The witty clucky sounds were wonderfully pulled off.

An encore came in a the shape of Romanian composer Grigoras Dinicu’s The Lark, which saw Creswick in brilliant musical sparring with trumpeter Richard Martin, each trying to outdo the other in delivering its fiendish flourishes.

The evening ended with Eric Coates’ soothing By the Sleepy Lagoon, synonymous with the radio programme Desert Island Discs.

Gavin Engelbrecht