Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony is one of conductor John Wilson’s all-time favourites and Royal Northern Sinfonia put their hearts into a ravishing account when he directed them at Sage Gateshead.

The work, opening with a haunting horn call, was laid out in all its grandeur with blossoming lines from the strings doing full justice to the beautifully contrived atmospheric passages.

The first movement was built to a glorious climax, before the swirling strings subsided. The Romanza, which forms spiritual heart of work, featured a delicate interweaving of strings and woodwind, with wonderful playing of the cor anglais.

The evening’s programme, entitled Great Britons, opened with a rare outing of Lennox Berkeley’s Serenade for Strings. The players revelled in its exuberant flourishes, bringing the whole to a serene resolution.

Benjamin Britten’s Nocturne for Tenor Seven Instruments and Strings was fronted by tenor Andrew Staples, who sang with silky tones, spinning mellifluous threads in the long phrases.

His finely-articulated account had, sadly, to contend with some unstifled outbursts of coughing from the audience at times.

The post-concert Spotlight fell on violinist Marie Schreer, who performed Elizabeth Winters’ Image Unfolding.

Based on one of Tartini’s solo sonatas, Schreer likened it to a stream of thought emerging from the five fragments. She rose to the occasion with a sterling performance.

Gavin Engelbrecht