Just as with the recurrences of Christmas, the years which separate each annual Presteigne Festival seem to get shorter and shorter.

No sooner has the comfortable Radnorshire Arms hotel bid farewell to music-lovers from an increasingly wide catchment area than the time comes round for the marquees to be erected again to welcome those same music-lovers, plus new ones, to this pretty little town in the Welsh Marches, eager for the festival's characteristic mix of well-known music and exciting contemporary works.

There is a great sense of loyalty here, not only from these returning audiences, but also from festival director George Vass towards a core of composers and performers whom he is keen to invite to reappear at Presteigne on a regular basis. How does he account for the festival's strong sense of affirmation, consolidation and expansion?

"I honestly believe that the repertoire mix at the Presteigne Festival is unique and not available anywhere else in the United Kingdom," he declares.

"Audiences seem to lap up the eclectic programme and I guess that is why they return each year - added to which the artists are superb, the venues are beautiful (with good acoustics for chamber music and small-scale orchestral and choral works) and the countryside is stunning.

"Many of the composers who return each year enjoy meeting up and chewing the fat and listening to each other's music. I try not to have favourites, but the festival is lucky to have Michael Berkeley as its president together with David Matthews, John McCabe, Hilary Tann and Adrian Williams as vice-presidents. Other firm Presteigne favourites include James Francis Brown, John Joubert, Cecilia McDowall and Judith Weir."

There is also a strong Birmingham presence in this charming town tucked just inside Wales, including many ex-Birmingham University staff who have retired to the area, something which particularly enthuses George Vass.

"Being Walsall-born myself, I'm very happy to see so many exMidlanders enjoying the Radnorshire countryside and obviously enjoying the music - it gives me a particularly warm feeling."

The Presteigne Festival currently receives major support from Powys County Council, the Arts Council of Wales, the Elmley Foundation, the Colwinston Charitable Trust, the RVW Trust, the PRS Foundation for New Music, Presteigne and Norton Town Council, the Finzi Trust and the Britten-Pears Foundation.

"We also attract a small amount of national and local sponsorship and our Patrons scheme is very popular. Currently, ticket receipts amount to roughly one third of our costs with public funding, trusts and sponsors covering the remaining two thirds. This year we will spend around £50,000 on artist fees and commissions alone. Every year is important but 2007 sees the 25th anniversary of the festival, my fiftieth birthday year and my fifteenth year as artistic director at Presteigne - we are already looking for major new sponsors."

Each festival has its own special theme running through the generous array of events which fill its five days, with this year's thread being a Baltic one. How did Vass come to choose it?

"About three years ago John McCabe came back from recording in Lithuania with a whole pile of CDs and suggested I might consider a Lithuanian theme; I thought this a little restrictive but had previously been knocked out by the music of the Latvian Peteris Vasks, and had conducted one or two pieces by the Estonian Arvo Part," he explains.

"Through the Baltic music specialist Martin Anderson I met Erkki-Sven Tuur and listened to much of his music and decided that a Baltic theme would be absolutely the right thing for Presteigne. I was very pleased when Vasks agreed to come and join us as composer-inresidence as part of his 60th birth-day celebrations - his music is sublime, the Violin Concerto in particular (in which the soloist is none other than Anthony Marwood), but also the choral/orchestral piece Dona nobis pacem which I've performed three times now, each time to a standing ovation.

"I urge audiences to hear this music - all the Baltic composers seem to have a perfect sense of proportion and an often other-worldly beauty of sound, they write fantastically well for string instruments and I feel that those who come to Presteigne this year will have a very special voyage of discovery."

* The Presteigne Festival runs from Thursday, August 24 to Tuesday, August 29, which included baroque music, Beethoven, Britten, Shostakovich, and works by Baltic and other contemporary composers. Details on 01544 267800 and www,presteignefestival.com