The inclusion of Visions and Journeys takes me back to August 2002 when I started writing for What’s On in London, the first of many interviews I undertook for the weekly magazine was with Anthony Payne, talking about the piece then on the cusp of its premiere (not the article linked to below, rather a second bite with the composer when Visions was revived). Stylistically it’s an arresting and dynamic composition, music that travels with a very particular scenery of atmospheres, colours and expressions, with notable leanings to rhythmic incisiveness (locomotion) and featuring orchestration that is alternately forthright or subtle, a fast-paced and rewarding twenty minutes in this excellent first performance by the BBCSO and Andrew Davis – August 5, 2002, Royal Albert Hall, Proms – captured in vivid sound,

From later Maida Vale studio sessions, Martyn Brabbins leads the other included works in typically exemplary fashion also in top-drawer sonics. The twelve-minute Half-Heard in the Stillness is rapturous and mysterious, rather Delian at times, and the half-hour Orchestral Variations: The Seeds Long Hidden, which is autobiographical, as the composer explains:

I was spending my school holidays at my grandparents’ home in Godalming. It was a rainy afternoon, and I was trapped indoors waiting for tea. The radio was tuned to the Home Service (Radio 4 is the nearest equivalent now), and a voice was droning on. Suddenly, music burst out and I was transfixed – my life irrevocably changed in that instant. I was around 12 years old and not a musical child. My family listened occasionally to the popular favourites of the day and a few light classics, but I knew no composers’ names, and, consciously at least, was aware of very little music. That is until that fateful moment.

How could it have happened? It was as if I had been drawn through a window, and was suddenly floating (I felt this palpably) in a magical landscape. Needless to say, I did not rush to my parents and tell them I had just had a mystical experience. I couldn’t think what had happened to me, and it took time to understand the part music had played in the experience. Nevertheless from that moment on I was a musician, and within a couple of years obsessively so. It was some time before I again heard the music which had so disturbed me, but I waited in anxious hope. Eventually it returned, and I discovered it was the opening of Brahms’s First Symphony.

These variations chart that experience, as well as other formative encounters with composers who have helped to shape my view of things.

If The Seeds Long Hidden (like Elgar’s Enigma, based on an original theme) is less picturesque than the companion pieces here – sinewy, tightly organised (somewhat Schoenbergian/expressionist) – it’s also seamless, including when Payne refers to Brahms’s First Symphony (of course) and such as George Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad, Vaughan Williams’s Fifth, and Sibelius’s Tapiola, also Roberto Gerhard and Varèse – these, and others, integral to the whole. A wonderful listen. NMC D281 is enthusiastically recommended, and then some.