Described by Franz Liszt as ‘the most poetic of composers’, Franz Schubert never crossed the Alps, let alone the Pyrenees. Yet his music knows no boundaries. Among a clutch of European Schubert festivals, one of the most delightful is the annual Schubertiade held in the village of Vilabertran, charmingly situated in northern Catalonia. Over the last few years the festival has gained a well-earned international reputation, combining an intimate, relaxed ambience with performances from top singers and pianists.
As usual, Schubert’s songs are the focal point of the 2020 festival, beginning with an all-Schubert recital from baritone Florian Boesch, famed for the dramatic intensity of his performances. Other star singers include the fast-rising Swiss baritone Andrè Schuen in songs by Schubert and Mahler, German soprano Julia Kleiter in a wide-ranging programme of Liszt, Wolf, Mahler and Strauss, and mezzo Dame Sarah Connolly, whose recital embraces songs by Elgar and that avid Schubert lover Benjamin Britten.
All the concerts take place in the Romanesque church of Santa María de Vilabertran, situated within an ancient monastery complex. Unlike the Austrian Schubertiades where multiple performances take place each day, this Spanish variant is more relaxed, with generally one event programmed per day. While the tour’s prime focus is music, there are excursions to the city of Girona, with its beautifully preserved Jewish quarter, and to the hill-top monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes.
Fly at c. 10.45am (British Airways) from London Heathrow to Barcelona. Drive north to near Figueres, where all five nights are spent. An introductory lecture precedes dinner at Michelin-starred Castell de Peralada.
Girona. Girona has a compact medieval Jewish quarter and Gothic cathedral towering over the river, with important illuminated manuscripts and tapestries displayed in the chapterhouse. Continue to the 13th-century Arab-style baths. Free time in Girona before returning to Peralada. Evening recital with Florian Boesch (baritone) & Malcolm Martineau (piano). Works by Schubert.
Sant Pere de Rodes. Leave Peralada following a morning lecture for Sant Pere de Rodes, an early Romanesque abbey with wonderful views of the coast. Lunch here before returning to Peralada. Evening recital with Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano) & Malcolm Martineau (piano). Works by Britten, Elgar and others.
Peralada. Lecture followed by a morning recital (details to be confirmed). Free afternoon in Peralada. Evening recital with Andrè Schuen (baritone) & Daniel Heide (piano). Works by Schubert and Mahler.
Peralada. Return to the nearby Castell de Peralada to visit its substantial and influential winery for a tasting and lunch. An early evening lecture precedes the final concert in Vilabertan. Evening recital with Julia Kleiter (soprano) & Julius Drake (piano). Works by Liszt, Wolf, Mahler and Strauss.
Return to Barcelona by coach for the flight to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 3.00pm.
Music writer, lecturer and broadcaster for BBC Radio 3. He writes for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone and has taught classes in Lieder history and interpretation at the Guildhall, Trinity College of Music and Birkbeck College. He read French and German at Cambridge and later studied Music at the Guildhall. His publications include Schubert: The Complete Song Texts and Pocket Guide to Haydn. Twitter: @wigmoresworld | Website: wigmoresworld.co.uk
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,760 or £2,460 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,120 or £2,820 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways (Airbus 320); travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 2 lunches and 5 dinners with wine, water, coffee; 1 wine tasting; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Tickets (top category) for five performances are included, costing c. £265. The festival programme has not yet been released to the public so concert details may still be subject to change. Four of the recitals are more formal and feature top international artists; the morning recital on Day 4 is likely to be a more causal affair.
Hotel Golf Peralada: a 5-star spa and golf hotel situated in the Albera mountains.
The excursions require a fair amount of walking, including in the historic centre of Girona where coach access is restricted. Coaches cannot stop in the immediate vicinity of the concert venue. Catalonia is very hot in August. Four of the five recitals start at c. 9pm so late nights are inevitable. Average distance by coach per day: 56 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.fco.gov.uk.