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Next Week (July 29), Alessio Bax Launches First Season as Artistic Director of Italy’s Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival

Next week, on Saturday, July 29, Leeds and Hamamatsu winner Alessio Bax launches a new three-year appointment as Artistic Director of Tuscany’s Incontri in Terra di Siena, with a week of events in and around the idyllic Villa La Foce estate (July 29–Aug 5) and performances at Germany’s Schloss Elmau (Aug 9 & 12). He will be joined there by 16 superlative chamber musicians: mezzo Sarah Connolly; violinists Joshua Bell, Nicolas Dautricourt, and Henning Kraggerud; violists Lise Berthaud and Lawrence Power; cellists Antonio Lysy and Paul Watkins; horn player Radovan Vlatković; pianists Lucille Chung, Julius Drake and Dan Tepfer; and the Escher String Quartet. Programming highlights include the European premiere of Tepfer’s Solar Spiral (2016), and Joshua Bell’s leadership of the beloved Mendelssohn Octet.

The Incontri takes place both indoors and out at the spectacular Villa La Foce in the Tuscan hills, as well as at the nearby medieval castle Castelluccio and venues throughout the Val d’Orcia region, a UNESCO Heritage site. Though only a two-hour drive from the Rome airport, the idyllic setting feels a world apart, and in past years the scenic festival has attracted the likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Maxim Vengerov, Ian Bostridge, and John Eliot Gardiner. As Classical Music put it:

“One of the best kept early 20th-century gardens in Italy is the fragrant setting for a festival that has spent 25 years celebrating music, visual arts, history, literature – and of course, being Italian, food and wine. It’s magic.”

As Bax explained in a recent “Meet the Artist” interview:

“[Incontri] is truly a unique festival and it has a deep connection with its surroundings, so I had to keep that in mind. I lined up a ‘dream team’ of my favourite artists and close friends who like to work together. And I tried to think of programs that are satisfyingly balanced, exciting, inspiring and fresh. I can’t wait to hear the results.”

With superstar violinist Joshua Bell, his regular recital partner since 2013, the Italian pianist presents an all-Brahms gala program on August 3. Also featuring celebrated Croatian horn player Radovan Vlatković, this will take place in the medieval hilltop village of Castiglioncello at the Church of Sant’Andrea, followed by a dinner at Monteverdi Tuscany, the luxury resort named “one of the four best hotels in Italy” by the UK’s Country & Town House magazine.

Bax also performs with his other most frequent recital partner, his wife and fellow pianist, Lucille Chung; their musical partnership has been described as “a marriage of wondrous colours and dextrous aplomb, subtly balanced to make a musical performance sound as one” (Music and Arts, UK). Joined by Italian-born cellist Antonio Lysy, original founder and music director of the festival and the winner of a Latin Grammy Award, they launch the Incontri season on July 29 with a program of Mozart, Rachmaninov, and Piazzolla at the Castelluccio, a 12th-century bastion on the La Foce estate.

The Castelluccio is also the setting for the festival debut on August 2 of jazz pianist Dan Tepfer, “a deeply rational improviser drawn to the unknown” (New York Times). Tepfer joins forces with the Escher String Quartet for the European premiere of his piano quintet Solar Spiral (2016), which draws on algorithms as well as his signature improvisations. These may also be heard when he extemporizes on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Vlatković completes the program with the horn solo from Messiaen’s transcendent Des canyons aux étoiles.

One of the few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Escher String Quartet makes its own first appearance at the festival with a concert that includes Mozart’s “Hunt” quartet along with quartets by Barber and Dvořák. The concert takes place at the 10th-century Romanesque Pieve di Corsignano church in Pienza, a regular festival venue, on July 30.

The following day, on July 31, the quartet returns for Rachmaninov, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence at the 16th-century Triano Church in Montefollonico. Joining the quartet for this performance are Bax and three more of Europe’s finest chamber musicians: Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud, winner of both the Grieg and Sibelius Prizes; French violist Lise Berthaud, laureate of the Geneva International Competition’s Hindemith Prize; and Emerson Quartet member Paul Watkins, who has been hailed as “Britain’s finest cellist” (The Guardian).

Besides serving as Artistic Director of the Arctic Chamber Orchestra, Kraggerud is also a prolific composer with more than 200 works to his name. Three of these will be heard alongside Mozart’s Horn Quintet and Mendelssohn’s Octet in an August 4 chamber recital that also features Bell, Berthaud, Watkins, Vlatković, Lysy and members of the Escher Quartet in the courtyard of the La Foce estate.

The festival draws to a close with a vocal recital by British mezzo Sarah Connolly, a two-time Grammy nominee, on August 5. With collaborative pianist Julius Drake, who has consistently proven himself “the best in the business” (New York magazine), she makes her festival debut with art songs by Schumann, Brahms, Mahler, Ivor Gurney, and Richard Rodney Bennett at the Teatro degli Avvaloranti in Città della Pieve, birthplace of the famous Renaissance painter Pietro “Perugino” Vannucci.

By way of a coda, the festival concludes at Germany’s Schloss Elmau, where Bax, Chung, Lysy, and Vlatković collaborate with violinist Nicolas Dautricourt and violist Lawrence Power on chamber programs of Mozart, Dohnanyi, and Fauré (Aug 9) and of Mozart and Brahms (Aug 12), among the dramatic peaks and forests of the Bavarian Alps.

More information about the festival is available here, and recent high-resolution photos of the pianist may be downloaded here.

Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival 2017

La Foce, Tuscany, Italy

July 29–Aug 5

Schloss Elmau, Germany

Aug 9 & 12

Artistic Director:

Alessio Bax


Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano

Joshua Bell, Nicolas Dautricourt, and Henning Kraggerud, violins

Lise Berthaud and Lawrence Power, violas

Antonio Lysy and Paul Watkins, cellos

Radovan Vlatković, French horn

Alessio Bax, Lucille Chung, Julius Drake, and Dan Tepfer, piano

Escher String Quartet (Adam Barnett-Hart & Aaron Boyd, violins; Pierre Lapointe, viola; Brook Speltz, cello)


Sat, July 29


Alessio Bax – Lucille Chung – Antonio Lysy

Mozart, Rachmaninov, Piazzolla

Sun, July 30


Pieve di Corsignano

Escher String Quartet

Mozart: Quartet No. 17 in B-flat, “The Hunt”

Barber: Quartet in B minor, Op. 11

Dvořák: Quartet in G, Op. 106

Mon, July 31


Chiesa del Triano

Chamber Concert – Norway and Russia

Kraggerud, Watkins, Berthaud, Lysy, Bax, Escher String Quartet

Rachmaninov: String Quartet No. 1

Grieg: Violin Sonata No. 3

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence for string sextet

Wed, Aug 2


Dan Tepfer – Jazz Piano

Tepfer, Vlatković, Escher String Quartet

Bach, arr. Tepfer: Goldberg Variations

Messiaen: “Appel Interstellaire” from Des canyons aux étoiles

Tepfer: Solar Spiral (2016) for piano quintet (European premiere)

Thurs, Aug 3

Castiglioncello del Trinoro

Chiesa di Sant’Andrea

Brahms Gala

Bell, Vlatković, and Bax

Brahms: Sonatensatz

Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 1

Brahms: Horn Trio Op. 30

Fri, Aug 4

La Foce

Cortile di Fattoria

Chamber concert – from Two to Eight

Bell, Kraggerud, Barnett-Hart, Boyd, Berthaud, Lysy, Watkins, Lapointe, and Vlatković

Mozart: Horn Quintet

Kraggerud: Voyage Douloureux; Til Sara; Duo Gemini

Mendelssohn: Octet

Sat, Aug 5

Città della Pieve

Teatro degli Avvaloranti

Sarah Connolly and Julius Drake

Schumann: Hans Christian Andersen Lieder (Op. 40)

Mahler: Rückert-Lieder

Brahms: “Ständchen” (Op. 106, No.1)

Brahms: “Da unten im Tale” (WoO 33, No.6)

Brahms: “Feldeinsamkeit” (Op. 86, No.2)

Brahms: “Die Mainacht” (Op. 43, No.2)

Brahms: “Von ewiger Liebe” (Op.43, No.1)

Ivor Gurney: “Most Holy Night”

Ivor Gurney: “Desire in Spring”

Ivor Gurney: “By a Bierside”

Ivor Gurney: “Sleep”

Richard Rodney Bennett: “The History of the Thé Dansant”

Wed, Aug 9; Sat, Aug 12

Schloss Elmau, Germany

Bax, Chung, Dautricourt, Lysy, Power, Vlatković

Aug 9: Mozart, Dohnanyi, and Fauré

Aug 12: Mozart and Brahms

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© 21C Media Group, July 2017

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