Incontri in Terra di Siena is an annual chamber music festival held in and around La Foce, a family-owned Tuscan villa south of Siena. From July 21 to 29, the festival will gather renowned classical musicians from around the world for an artistic retreat and performance series.
La Foce, once a 7,500-acre estate, had barren clay hills and almost no public buildings before the agricultural investment made by the visionary Origo family. After purchasing the La Foce estate, the family dedicated their lives to the development of area, bringing many positive changes, including this not-for-profit festival back in 1988. Antonio Lysy, the grandson of the villa’s original owners and an internationally acclaimed cellist, founded the festival, working as its artistic director since the beginning of its 34-year history.
“[Villa La Foce] was a place I wanted to help revive,” said Lysy, also a professor at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. “It was just sort of lying there without being shared. It’s a beautiful place. It’s being written about a lot in literature. It has all of these different aspects of attractions, from the nature, to the Etruscan background, to the World War II history. Recently it was even used in a TV series, in Succession.”
In the slightly hidden and little publicized spot, the festival brings a lot to discover. The pianist and current Incontri artistic director Alessio Bax said of the experience 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.”
While centered in the countryside, Orchestra della Toscana will inaugurate the festival in Florence’s Teatro Verdi. The concert will be conducted by Paul Watkins, accompanied by Emmanuel Pahud on flute, Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung on piano and James Ehnes on the violin. The musicians will interpret some well-known compositions by Mozart, Poulenc and Tchaikovsky on July 21, at 7 pm.
“We’re starting with Florence this year because it was so successful last year,” said Lysy. “Afterwards we all descend into the Val d’Orcia for that retreat experience. It’s very much like a working holiday. We love doing what we’re doing with the right people.”
At its home base in Val d’Orcia, Incontri in Terra di Siena will host six more concerts. They will take place at Villa La Foce; at Chiarentana in the Teatro degli Arrischianti; in Sarteano; and in the Teatro degli Avvaloranti in Città della Pieve.
The concert series will continue Saturday, July 23 in Chiarentana with a performance by James Ehnes on violin, Antonio Lysy playing cello, Emmanuel Pahud on flute and Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung on piano starting at 7:30 pm. Pieces by Bach, Bacri and Dvořák will be interpreted during the show.
Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26 bring two benefit concerts for Ukrainian musicians. The first, at 7:30 pm in Teatro degli Avvaloranti, features the internationally recognized group Les Vent Français accompanied by Eric le Sage on piano. The other concert is held in collaboration with “Help Musicians Ukraine,” an organization that provides opportunities and funds for musicians displaced by the war. Ukrainian Akvareles, with Lidiya Futorska on violin and Serhiy Khorovets on accordion, have been invited to perform selections from a classical repertoire in addition to traditional Ukrainian music in the 18th century Teatro degli Arrischianti at 12 noon.
“This duo is coming down by car from Lviv,” said Lysy. “It’s a beautiful program with beautiful music that many people haven’t heard of.”
On July 27 (7:30 pm), compositions by Bach, Schönberg and Rachmaninoff will be interpreted by James Ehnes on violin, Antonie Lysy and Paul Watkins on cello, Emmanuel Pahud on flute, Paul Meyer on the clarinet and Allesio Bax and Éric Le Sage on piano.
The courtyard of La Foce will spotlight a number of other established musicians such as Annabelle Meare, Paul Meyer and Emmanuel Pahud on July 28 (7:30 pm), playing pieces by the American composer Barber, the French composer Poulenc, the Italian composer Scodanibbio and the Hungarian composer Dohnanyi.
The festival ends with a closing concert in the farmyard of La Foce on July 29 (7:30 pm). Hummel’s Septet and Schubert’s Octet will be presented by talented musicians, including Alessio Bax, who became the artistic director of the Incontri in 2017.
“Rather than being something that’s on the schedule, this is very much a pleasure,” said Lysy. “It’s a retreat. It’s something that people want to come to in the summer and enjoy. There are very few places like that in the world.”
This year’s festival iteration will debut a literary component called Parlando. Starting with this season, a writer will be invited to Incontri to enjoy the ambiance and ultimately write a piece about their experience. The piece will later be presented to guests in paper in the following editions of the festival. This year the English author Louis de Bernières will inaugurate Parlando and give a talk on “The Music of Poetry” during the program.
“There are so many authors that know so much about music and appreciate music in a way that we can benefit from,” said Lysy of the Parlando program.
A series of free events will also be offered to concert goers, including a guided tour of the spectacular gardens at La Foce by the owner Benedetta Origo. (elif aytemiz & andrew checchia)
For more info, call +39 0578 63316, mail email@example.com or visit itslafoce.org.