The chief work on BIS’s fourth CD devoted to the music of John Pickard (b1963) is his Fifth and most recent Symphony, composed in an intense burst of creativity in the early months of 2014. (Its predecessor, the Gaia Symphony for brass band – 11/14 – took 13 years to achieve its final form!) Pickard’s five symphonies cover his entire career to date, the still-unperformed First written in 1983‑84; like it and the eruptive Second (1985‑87), No 5 is in one continuous movement lasting around half an hour. The music fair kidnaps the listener’s attention at the outset and does not ransom it until the gripping, wholly satisfying close. The structure alternates fast and slow episodes, shortening or lengthening like some vast process of respiration, pivoting around the main central slow section, the tempos phasing and overlapping as the movement progresses. Those knowing McCabe’s Of Time and the River will recognise a kindred spirit here, even if the result is quite different.

Full review