Royal Northern Sinfonia’s latest concert at Sage Gateshead featured diverse works in a programme entitlted Music of the Night.

The evening opened with a sprightly account of Mozart’s Serenade No.6 in D, K239 ‘Serenata notturna’ - hailed as one of the composer’s most charming and skilfully organised pieces.

The opening movement had a pulsating flow, including a rare solo for timpani accompanied by plucked strings, while the strings shone in a melodious slow movement.

The final movement was injected with witty turns of phrase and a lively exchange between the lead and second violins of Eoin Andersen and Gaelle-Ann Michel. Even double bassist Callum Hay Jennings got his chance to shine.

A setting for six English poems concerned with twilight and sleep, Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings was specially written to match the artistry of his partner Peter Pears and the leading horn player of the day, Dennis Brain.

Tenor Joshua Ellicott and horn Peter Francombe proved a formidable pairing, enjoying enjoyed sensitive and deft and support from the orchestra, under the baton of Christian Schumann.

Francombe set the scene with a haunting prologue. He evoked wonderful echoes in wistful setting of Tennyson and dark melancholy in Blake. His brash horn notes from the gates of Hell were laced with menace and he rippled away exuberantly in Johnson’s invocation to the goddess to Diana.

Ellicott sang with a light airy airy tenor perfectly suited to the work.

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s symphonic poem Illumine, based on the relationship between light and darkness, depicted a flowing world of sounds.

The evening was wrapped up with an energetically driven performance of Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

The slowly-developing fugue of the opening movement unfolded like a blossoming flower, while the spirited allegro featured incisive exchanges between string sections, with exhilarating pizzicato passages.

The percussion section, including a snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, timpani and xylophone and piano relished in the fiendish rhythms. The adagio, used to chilling effect in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining with its sparse xylophone solos, muted string trills and ghostly sliding pitches for the timpani was a tour de force.

Gavin Engelbrecht