The renowned chamber music festival Incontri in Terra di Siena returns for its 34th year with an opening concert at Teatro Verdi in Florence on Thursday July 21. Concert goers will experience the Orchestra della Toscana and conductor Paul Watkins’ take on music by Mozart, Poulenc and Tchaikovsky, alongside soloists Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung (piano), James Ehnes (violin) and Emmanuel Pahud (flute).
Following the grand opening in Florence, the festival returns to its roots in Val D’Orcia which will see six concerts in beautiful locations including Villa La Foce, Chiarentana, Teatro degli Arrischianti in Sarteano and Teatro degli Avvaloranti in Città della Pieve.
Incontri in Terra di Siena is a not-for-profit cultural association, founded at Villa La Foce in 1988 by Benedetta Origo and her son, the talented cellist, Antonio Lysy. The festival was originally created in homage to Antonio Origo and his wife Iris Origo, an Anglo-American writer, who bought the La Foce estate in the 1920s and subsequently devoted their lives to the development of Val D’Orcia and its inhabitants. During the second world war, they took in refugee children and defied the fascist regime by helping partisans and Allied prisoners of war.
The 2022 festival is the sixth under the artistic direction of pianist Alessio Bax, who has brought together an internationally recognised group of musicians. Wind quintet Les Vents Français (Emmanuel Pahud, principal flute of the Berliner Philharmoniker; Paul Meyer on the clarinet; Radovan Vlatoković playing French horn; François Leleux on the oboe; and Gilbert Audin playing bassoon) will perform an assorted program accompanied by Eric le Sage on piano. Newcomers to Incontri include Dutch double bass player, Niek De Groot, and Canadian violinist, James Ehnes. Performers from previous years will also return to the festival to play alongside pianist and Artistic Director, Alessio Bax: pianist Lucille Chung, cellist and festival founder Antonio Lysy, British violist Lawrence Power, cellist and conductor Paul Watkins, and violinist Annabelle Meare.
‘Immersed in the magnificent setting of La Foce and of the Val d’Orcia, our world class musicians manage to create, year after year, something truly special and quite unique. It is almost as if the great music created at the Incontri belongs to the land, enhancing its beauty and leaving us, as audience members, with truly profound and gratifying experiences that stay with us for a very long time’.Alessio Bax, 2018.
The festival will be supporting Help Musicians Ukraine, an organization set up to help displaced Ukrainian musicians and their families in the current crisis. Funds go towards helping students and professionals alike, as well as creating jobs in the field. Incontri has invited Ukrainian Akvareles, a violin and accordion duo, to represent the organization with a benefit concert. It will be held in the stunning 18th-century Teatro degli Arrischianti in Sarteano on July 26, with a program that marries classical music with traditional Ukrainian melodies, to give listeners an interestingly varied performance.
Even though music undeniably takes center stage, this year sees the addition of a literary component to the Incontri festival. Titled ‘Parlando’, each year a writer will be invited for a residency position and will contribute to the music festival offerings in the same landscape as Iris Origo penned many of her works. Authors are invited to write a piece for Parlando of their choice – an article, poem, essay or other type of text; the only requirement is that it is connected to the Incontri experience. The work will then be published on the Incontri website, on a special page dedicated to Parlando, and will be available in print during the following year’s festival as part of a new compendium.
For 2022, the writer-in-residence will be the distinguished British author Louis de Bernières.
Other events during the festival include a guided tour of Villa La Foce’s famous garden with Benedetta Origo and a talk on ‘The Music of Poetry’ by English acclaimed writer, Louis de Bernières.
If you would like to catch a glimpse of the Incontri in Terra di Siena festival, director and producer Zac James Nicholson made a brief film encapsulating the feeling of last year and the Val D’Orcia landscape that you can watch online.