MUSIC / National Youth Wind Orchestra - Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank

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The Independent Culture
Writing for a symphonic wind band means doing without the support of multi-purpose orchestral strings. The compositional alternatives, to judge from Friday's concert, include an idiom of contrapuntal severity, a little light music showing off the ensemble's more attractive instrumental colours, or something completely different: a one-off conception like Berlioz's monumental Grande Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale, heard in the second half.

Before the interval, Philip Sparke's Sinfonietta No 2 unashamedly took the light-music option, flaunting a pageant of energetic syncopations and soaring melodies for massed flutes and clarinets. Stephen Dodgson's more thoughtful Bandwagon broke up the 65-strong orchestra into small groups for its five movements, with self-evident titles such as 'Rough and Tumble' reflecting the music's origin in fun and games. Balance, here, involved a discretion between the young players that was accomplished with professional flair and confidence.

Ingolf Dahl's 1949 Alto Saxophone Concerto demanded different perceptions: the matching and blending of polyphonic lines carried by entire instrumental sections. As in Dahl's neo-Baroque music mixed with a dash of blues (eloquently projected by soloist John Harle), there were attempts at crossover in Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto. In Dahl's case, synthesis remained an objective rather than an accomplishment. Even so, his efforts provided the evening's most engaging 20th-century music.