Edinburgh-based Lyell Cresswell is adamant he is a New Zealand composer, despite the fact Scotland has been his home since the 1970s. He has also lived in Aberdeen, chosen for doctoral studies almost 40 years ago, "to avoid the trendy places and fashionable centres that everyone went to", he says. "I wanted to develop my own style and, as long as you study with intelligent people who care about things, that's enough.

"And coming from the edge of the world in New Zealand to the edge of Europe in Aberdeen made it a fairly easy transition."

Cresswell's music has made regular and invariably spectacular appearances in our concert halls over the last decade. Now a Naxos recording has the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra offering a quartet of his superb works, rounded off with his 1997 trombone concerto, Kaea, with soloist David Bremner.

This composer, whose scores were fairly daunting affairs in the 80s and 90s, admits he has been using a lighter and quicker touch over the past 10 years.

"I've done the big, heavy orchestral stuff and my music is getting faster and faster as life goes on and time slips by," he says. The notes positively race by in the CD's centerpiece, Alas! How Swift, an adrenalin-charged toccata for trumpet and orchestra, with a spot-on solo turn from Michael Kirgan.

"It appears to slow down, but keeps the same metronome mark right through." He has a waggish sense of humour. His back catalogue includes such jests as Le Sucre du Printemps, for a clutch of clarinets, and a tongue-in-cheek "waiata", the unaccompanied Prayer for a Sprained Back.

The recording opens with The Voice Inside, a "concerto" for soprano and violin, featuring the marvellous Madeleine Pierard and Vesa-Matti Leppanen. Ron Butlin's texts take the form of seven sometimes witty tributes to the violin. One movement banters over contrapuntal matters, rounding off with Pierard's "Your key or mine? Let's intertwine."

"Madeleine takes a lot of care to understand what the poems are about," says Cresswell. "She appreciates the humour of it, which is not always so with some performers."

Despite some gentle nudges at the 12-tone brigade in one song and a rap-call of famous fiddlers from Corelli to the 18th-century traditional Scottish fiddler Niel Gow in another, a slow movement looks to the emotionally charged language of Mahler and Strauss.

"So much music these days takes no account of the emotions," Cresswell says. "Yet music can help people come to terms with them, avoiding sentimentality and taking real emotions seriously."

Even more searching is Cassandra's Songs, gorgeously sung by Pierard, with Butlin's verses catching what the composer describes as "Cassandra, the ultimate exile."

The NZSO revels in Cresswell's ingeniously fluid palette, which generally avoids the more avant-garde techniques of some contemporary composers.

"I like things that can be notated, so musicians can play what I write," he says. "I like the score to be as precise as it can be, with nothing left to chance, apart from the interpretation. Then, when I hear the piece, I'm never surprised. I'm not an experimental composer because I know what I'm doing."

It's not surprising Cresswell says he has become a fan of Haydn's music relatively late in life. "I'm getting old enough to appreciate some of these things," he laughs. When I suggest the slavish modernists of our generation might have thrown out a few too many babies with the bathwater in our search for the new, there is another Cresswellian chuckle: "It's taken all these years to put the plug back in."

Lyell Cresswell, The Voice Inside (Naxos Records)