Last year I arrived at Machynlleth railway station after an eight-hour train journey from Bangor (we got stuck near Oswestry) and realised that I was sharing the carriage with a string quartet. They were en route for the Machynlleth music festival. So, this year, looking at the programme and seeing that Ian Bostridge was being accompanied by Julius Drake and Charles Owen was playing solo in the evening, we decided to make the long trek through the mountains of north Wales to hear them. I’ve always liked Machynlleth as a town in a nice, solid, mid-Welsh and now slightly hippy-ish way. The concert was in an old non-conformist tabernacle with near perfect acoustics. Ian Bostridge sang Mahler songs with magnificent cerebral intensity. Charles Owen played an unspeakably complicated work by Liszt, Années de Pèlerinage, for the first time, having admired a recording by Alfred Brendel in his youth and waited 25 years to learn it; and then one of Schubert’s late piano sonatas D.959 with its impassioned second movement.
We stayed up in the hills in a house with trees planted in the heyday of Victorian arboriculture, when Wales was regarded as Switzerland:
This was a view of the valley in the sunny morning:
The sub-Alpine Keeper’s lodge:
And a view of the old tennis pavilion: