Royal Northern Sinfonia, under the baton of Kristiina Poska, took an audience at Sage Gateshead on an intriguing musical journey in a concert entitled Baltic Exploration.

The evening opened with Lighthouse, by the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, who began his musical career heading a progressive rock band influenced by the likes of Yes and Genesis.

The work encapsulating his talent for mixing idioms, featured complex rhythms, with the strings generating surging waves of sound interspersed with moments of calms, before sweeping to a sudden climax.

Viktoria Mullova, one of world's leading violinists, then took centre stage with the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, requesting there be no clapping between the recital of three pieces.

Mullova, who has closely collaborated with deeply spiritual composer, conveyed the essence of his poignant works without dramatic flourishes or outward displays of emotion. It was all about the music, which she got to the heart of with a laser-sharp focus.

Mullova extracted a wonderful depth of sound in a moving rendition of the Pärt's sombre Darf ich, while the insistent pulse of his Passacaglia was delivered with piercing clarity, before unfolding with exquisitely controlled intensity. Fratres for Violin, String Orchestra and Percussion, which has become Pärt's signature piece, ebbed and flowed with lines of aching beauty.

Poska brought a perfectly-phrased elegance to Jean Sibelius' Valse Triste, going on to shape a nuanced account of Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony, as arranged by Rudolf Barshai.

The Andantino featured superlative playing from the woodwinds, while the celebratory Klezmer dance of the finale was brought to colourful life, before the concluding bars softly faded away.

As an added bonus, Mullova took up her 'Jules Falk' 1723 Stradivarius for the post-concert Spotlight performance, giving a scintillating performance of JS Bach's Chaconne.

Gavin Engelbrecht