THIS year’s composer-in-residence at Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts is Martin Butler.

His ‘Concertante Dances’, for piano and chamber orchestra, is among his works to be included in the festival which opens next Thursday, August 23.

The specially commissioned festival piece will receive its world premiere with Martin himself as pianist as part of the finale concert on Tuesday night, August 28, along with the Festival Orchestra conducted by festival director George Vass, at St Andrew’s Church.

Born in Hampshire in 1960, Martin went on to study at Princeton University, USA where he was a former composer-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

He was composer in focus with the Brighton Philharmonic and remains pianist with the innovative improvising group, Notes Inegales and co-director of Club Inegales in London, while also currently Professor of Music at the University of Sussex.

Martin’s works are widely performed and broadcast both in the UK and abroad.

He has received commissions from, among others, the BBC Proms, the London Sinfonietta, the Schubert Ensemble and the Brighton, Cheltenham, Canterbury, Norfolk and Norwich, and Presteigne Festivals. His opera ‘A Better Place’ was premiered by ENO at the Coliseum in London in July 2001 and the same year, ‘Two Rivers’ was premiered by the Oxford Bach Choir.

Martin will also appear at the Presteigne Festival with Joseph Tong as the two pianists with the Festival Ensemble conducted by George Vass and Sally Ripley as narrator for their concert at St Andrew’s at 7pm on Monday, August 27, which will include his ‘Dirty Beasts’ for narrator, piano and wind instruments, his ‘Preludes Inegales’ for solo piano, and ‘Fall’ for flute and piano.

His ‘Suzanne’s River-Song’ will be part of the ‘Songs and Reflections’ recital by violinist Kristine Balanus and pianist Huw Watkins, at St Andrew’s Church at 2pm on Monday, August 27.

The Navarra Quartet will be playing two pieces by Martin with ‘Songs and Dances from a Haunted Place’ as part of their concert at St Stephen’s Church, Old Radnor, at 2.45pm on Sunday, August 26; and his ‘Sequenza Notturna’ as part of their concert at At Andrew’s Church, back in Presteigne, at 2pm on Tuesday, August 28.

The festival will also have important birthday celebrations for two composers with long-held Presteigne Festival connections, president, Michael Berkeley (70) and David Matthews (75), with ‘Berkeley’s Passions’ at the Assembly Rooms at 11am on Tuesday, August 28, will see Michael in conversion sharing his passions with conductor, pianist and publisher David Wordsworth, with favourite pieces being played.

David Matthews will be celebrated by the film-maker Barrie Gavin introducing a specially compiled film including a substantial interview with the composer as well as musical extracts, at the Assembly Rooms at 12.30pm on Sunday, August 26.

Donations will be invited to the George Vass Commission Fund for the creation of new works.

Compositions by both composers will be included in a number of the festival concert programmes.

The 36th annual Presteigne Festival continues through to Tuesday, August 28, with its strong Baltic flavour celebrating the centenaries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania becoming independent republics.

In addition to concerts and recitals, there will also be talks, poetry, exhibitions, a feature of three Nordic films, and Well Thumbed, a wonderfully irreverent one-man show from Terry Victor.

Full details are at, or with the box office by phone on 01544 267800 between 11am to 2pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Most events are held in the town itself but there are also events at Discoed, Pembridge, and Kinnerton with a festival bus from the town centre on which seats can be booked.