From Bastille to Impressionism, across Napoleonic battlefields, a continental wind will blow over the green Welsh countryside: from June 12th to 28th, Gregynog Festival, one of the oldest of its kind, will bear the three colours of the French flag in various locations by putting together a programme around a French revolutionary theme. Renowned artists and composers will cross the Channel to tell an eventful history, and highlight the links between France and Wales. 

Xavier de Maistre © Marco Borggreve
Xavier de Maistre
© Marco Borggreve
The Festival was founded by two sisters, Margaret and Gwendoline Davies, who acted as major sponsors for culture in Wales. The concerts of the first week end will pay a tribute to them: the finest living ambassador of the French harp, Xavier de Maistre, will open the celebrations in the Gregynog Gallery in the National Museum of Cardiff. His programme will resonate amongst the surrounding masterpieces of Cézanne, Monet and Van Gogh, bequeathed by the Davies sisters, and will continue to explore new musical worlds with the première of Richard Dubugnon's work for harp, commissioned by the Festival.

Lectures and concerts will follow the thread of the two sisters bringing in French culture, thanks to a piano recital given by Iwan Llewelyn-Jones "Parisian pianism in Wales" in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and to the Escher Quartet which by featuring D'Indy's last string quartet will evoke the Conservatoire founded by Gwendoline in 1914, the first school of music in Wales.

The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments © Clare Salaman
The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments
© Clare Salaman
We will light the candles with the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments - let's understand "strange" as "foreign"; in what promised to be a magical moment, the ensemble will recreate one of these "historic" concerts given in Paris when the sisters were collecting paintings for their gallery in Gregynog. The Davies Museum will also open its doors on 15 June; don't miss out the opportunity to visit the sisters' birthplace and get into the atmosphere of the Belle Époque.

A second highlight of the festival will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (concerts, screening, culinary discovery...) on 18 June. Napoleonic fever was finally contained in the Belgian "morne plaine" ("gloomy plains") by European armies, and groups of French officers, previously kept as prisoners in Wales, were killed in the battle. They had brought to the country a trendy sense of French culture; pithy stories will be told! On 19 June, you will be invited to dance with the London Handel Players and ballet masters Mary Collins and Steven Player in a dance workshop recreating the flamboyant ball given in Brussels on the battle's eve. 

Musical revolutions imply instrumental making; with a sense of authenticity, the well-named ensemble Fantasticus will give a fascinating French Baroque programme on 17 June, followed by one from the ensemble Amarillis, conducted by Héloïse Gaillard on the 20th. The day before, Rachel Brown's flute, accompanied by the The Revolutionary Drawing Room, will take us on a European tour with composers who lived at the time of the French Revolution of 1789 (Giovanni Battista Viotti, Joseph Haydn, François-Joseph Gossec...). The delicate-sounding harp which Queen Marie-Antoinette and Empress Joséphine used to play on, will be heard in Masumi Nagasawa's recital on 20 June. Two players from the Folies françoises, one of the foremost ensembles of the French baroque world, will give a recital based on Mozart's stay in Paris. Interestingly, it will include a sonata from the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a fantastic Guadeloupean violinist who fought against slavery. Kristian Bezuidenhout at the fortepiano, and the oustanding Talens Lyriques conducted by Christophe Rousset (in his Welsh debut) will perform the last of the early music concerts at the Gregynog Festival. 

Stéphanie d'Oustrac © Jean-Philippe Baltel
Stéphanie d'Oustrac
© Jean-Philippe Baltel
As a final highlight of the festival, the last week end will blast modernist colours from the early 20th century. The much sought after mezzo-soprano Stéphanie d'Oustrac makes her Welsh debut, inviting us into a French Salon from La Belle Époque with refined songs from Reynaldo Hahn and his colleagues. The renowned pianist Anne Queffélec, whose Satie recording has established a long-lasting authority, will rock us in a pear-shaped cradle, in Gregynog Hall on 27 June, while Thierry Pécou and his Ensemble Variances, an ensemble among the most famous ones in the contemporary world, will breathe life into his evocative creations (Soleil-Tigre...) or to Scriabin's works, highlighted by internationally renowned pianist Alexander Melnikov. 

We will finally extend the trip to French-speaking countries: the Belgian  Vox Luminis will conclude the Gregynog Festival. The final concert location will be Montgomery's Church, in repertoire very dear to the ensemble, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Henri Dumont.

Façade of the Gregynog House © Festival de Gregynog
Façade of the Gregynog House
© Festival de Gregynog