ii. The music
iii. The festival package
iv. The Danube
Music and place
The key feature is the singularly beguiling combination of music and place. Concerts take place in buildings that are among the most beautiful in the Danube valley – palaces, churches, monasteries and country houses. But the value of the juxtaposition goes deeper: the buildings are often of the same period as the music, and in some cases there are potent historical associations between the two.
The performances are private, being exclusive to the participants who take the festival package (see details below). The small size of the audience and venues leads to an intimacy that engenders a rare intensity of musical communication. Musicians love playing for this festival. Not only are the venues an inspiring change from conventional concert halls, but the audiences are attentive, and appreciative.
Travelling in comfort
Chartered exclusively for the festival audience (128 maximum), the MS Amadeus Star was launched in 2019. Acting as both hotel and principal means of transport, it enables passengers to attend all the concerts and see some of the finest sights in the region without having to change hotel or drive long distances. In many ways, however, your experience will be far removed from the usual cruising routine. There is little regimentation, no obligatory seating plan, no on-board entertainment, no intrusive announcements – and absolutely no piped music.
The spoken word
Daily talks by music critic, writer and broadcaster Richard Wigmore enlighten, stimulate, and inform.
For your eyes
The itinerary takes you through some of the most enchanting riverine landscape in Europe, to deliciously picturesque towns and villages, and to the incomparable city of Vienna. Great art and architecture is as much a part of this festival as great music.
Nearly all the music is by composers who lived and worked in the Austro-Hungarian Empire – in other words, local to the Danube.
Ensemble Prisma Wien performs a Baroque programme in the Kolomanisaal of Melk Abbey, one of Central Europe’s greatest architectural achievements.
The Vienna Chamber Choir sings a cappella in the vast Gothic Revival Votivkirche in Vienna – Schütz, Haydn, Salieri, Schubert, Bruckner.
Imogen Cooper piano plays Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations in the Hall of the Muses at the Albertina, Vienna.
Roderick Williams baritone & Susie Allan piano perform Lieder at Schloss Eckartsau, a Baroque hunting lodge on the plain of the Marchfeld.
The Vienna-based Minetti String Quartet perform Haydn and Dvořák in the Mirror Hall at the Primatial Palace in Bratislava.
The masterly Haydn Philharmonic, with Enrico Onofri conductor and Selina Ott trumpet, provide a programme of Haydn and Mozart in the Palais Ferstel, Vienna.
The Amatis Piano Trio play Schubert’s E flat trio at Schloss Atzenbrugg where the composer used to holiday.
Andreas Staier fortepiano plays Haydn, Mozart and Schubert in the Prälatensaal of the delightful little abbey at Dürnstein.
The Amatis Piano Trio concludes the festival with Beethoven, Kreisler and Brahms at the Palais Kaufmännischer Verein in Linz, a turn-of-the-century set of assembly rooms.
The festival package
Access to the concerts is exclusive to those who take the festival package, the price for which includes:
— Nine private concerts.
— Daily talks on the music.
— Accommodation on a first-class river cruiser for seven nights.
— Return flights between the UK and Munich. Reduced price if you choose to opt out of these.
— All meals, with wine and other drinks, and interval drinks.
— Coach travel for airport transfers and to the concert venues, when not within walking distance.
— All tips, taxes and admission charges.
— A detailed programme booklet.
— The assistance of an experienced team of German-speaking festival staff.
— Optional pre-festival tour: King Ludwig II (17–22 August 2022)
The stretch of river between Passau and Bratislava is one of the loveliest lengths of riparian scenery anywhere in the world. Its monuments are many and remarkable. And nowhere on Earth can match the Danube region for its contribution to the canon of Classical music over the course of several hundred years.
This is simply the biggest river of Europe. From its origins in south-western Germany, the Danube flows to the Black Sea over a course of about 1,750 miles, gathering force from waters which drain 300,000 square miles, passing through ten countries. More than three hundred often furious tributaries pour their national waters into the Danube, but the river placidly swallows them all.
Day 1, Monday 22 August
Fly from London Heathrow or Manchester or make your way to Passau independently.
The ship is ready for boarding from 4.00pm. Afternoon tea is available upon arrival.
Piled up on promontories at the confluence of three rivers, the Bavarian city of Passau is crammed with historic buildings, dominated by the great Baroque cathedral. It was one of the most important episcopal seats in Central Europe and served as a refuge for the Habsburg court in times of danger.
The ship sails at 6.30pm. A reception is followed by dinner.
Day 2, Tuesday 23 August
Continue sailing downstream during the morning through one of the most beautiful stretches of the Danube. The first of the talks is scheduled for after breakfast.
In the early afternoon, the domed abbey of Melk appears ahead on an outcrop beside the river. Its formidable bulk presents to the world an image of awesome power, and there is no diminution of this impression inside. Stone, stucco, paint, gold and all the media at the disposal of craftsmen and artists in the 18th century combine to create some of the giddiest heights ever attained in Baroque art.
A tour of the abbey passes through a sequence of ceremonial courtyards, guest apartments, hall and library, culminating in a church of unsurpassed decorative richness.
Melk Abbey, Kolomanisaal
Ensemble Prisma Wien
Thomas Fheodoroff violin
The concert takes place in the Kolomanisaal, the summer refectory of the abbey. Walls and vault are covered in frescoes by Gaetano Fanti and Paul Troger, the leading fresco specialists of their time in the Austrian empire.
The music is a programme of ‘Austrian’ Baroque music with composers including Schmelzer, Biber, Muffat and Fux. Their life histories well illustrate both the cosmopolitan nature and the wide extent of the Austrian empire.
The Ensemble Prisma Wien perform with their director, virtuoso violinist Thomas Fheodoroff, who founded the group in 2004. They aim to present music in its purest form by refracting sound into its constituent colours. Performing on period instruments in a variety of formations (eight instrumentalists today), their repertoire stretches from 1600 via Beethoven symphonies to contemporary. They are famed for their enthusiasm, technical brilliance and artistic vision.
Return to the ship for dinner and sail overnight to Vienna.
Day 3, Wednesday 24 August
Wake up at a mooring 20 minutes from the centre of Vienna.
Principal seat of the Habsburgs for over 600 years, Vienna became capital of a vast agglomeration of territories that encompassed much of central and eastern Europe. The fabric of the city is a glorious mix of the magnificent and the charming, the imperious and the unpretentious. It remains one of the world’s greatest centres for the arts, and has no rivals for its dominant place in the history of music.
Vienna Chamber Choir
Michael Grohotolsky conductor
Schütz, Haydn, Salieri, Schubert, Bruckner
Since its founding in 1947, the Wiener Kammerchor (Vienna Chamber Choir) has been an international pioneer for the modern interpretation of choral music. They have performed throughout Austria and at major festivals elsewhere, and several times for our Danube Festival.
Today’s concert features music by Anton Bruckner, Franz Schubert, Heinrich Schütz, Joseph Haydn, Michael Haydn, Antonio Salieri, Anton Heiller and Arvo Pärt.
The Votivkirche is an imposing Gothic Revival church on the Ringstrasse, designed by Heinrich von Ferstel and in many ways resembling the Stephansdom, Vienna’s cathedral. It was built in thanksgiving for the failure of an assassination attempt on Emperor Franz Josef in 1853 but construction took 25 years.
After the morning concert there is a choice of returning to the ship for lunch or of spending time independently in Vienna until the later concert.
Imogen Cooper piano
We are delighted once again to have engaged Imogen Cooper, one of the outstanding pianists of our time. She trained as a child in Paris and in Vienna under Alfred Brendel before launching into a brilliant international career as soloist, accompanist and concerto performer. She was created Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2021 Birthday Honours.
The recital is devoted to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations Op.120. Among his late compositions, with a playing time of an hour the piece is his most monumental work for the piano.
The Albertina was the home of Duke Albrecht (Albert) von Sachsen-Teschen, son-in-law of Empress Maria Theresia. A connoisseur of the arts, his purchases form the kernal of one of the world’s greatest collections of prints and drawings. The concert takes place in the serene and light-filled Hall of the Muses dating to the 1820s and designed by Joseph Kornhäusel, the leading Viennese architect of the time.
Dinner on board while sailing downstream.
Day 4, Thursday 25 August
The ship moors in the early hours in the little Austrian town of Hainburg. Haydn went to school here.
Disembark for the short drive to Schloss Eckartsau. Though only 25 miles from Vienna, the Marchfeld is surprisingly rural, an alluvial plain ringed by mountains, and significant in Austrian history as a hunting ground and field of battle.
Roderick Williams OBE baritone
Susie Allan piano
Roderick Williams is one of the most celebrated baritones of his generation. He performs a wide repertoire from Baroque to contemporary, in the opera house and on the concert platform, in Britain and across the world. His musical partnership with Susie Allan stretches over 20 years; she is one of today’s most perceptive accompanists, and performs with many international vocal soloists.
The programme is to be confirmed.
Schloss Eckartsau is an enchanting Baroque hunting lodge which was extended for Archduke Franz Ferdinand (he of the Sarajevo assassination in 1914) and became the final Austrian residence of Charles, the last Emperor of Austria. It is now headquarters of the state forestry institution.
Sail downstream to Bratislava.
Now capital of Slovakia, Bratislava was for seventy years the second city of Czechoslovakia and for three hundred years before that the capital (as Pressburg) of the Habsburg rump of Hungary while Ottoman Turks occupied most of the country. Its compact historic centre is a dense mesh of unspoilt streets, squares and restored façades. There is a choice of museums and historic buildings to visit before an early-evening concert.
Bratislava, Primatial Palace
Minetti String Quartet
Haydn, Dvořák, Tröndle
Since its foundation 18 years ago, the Minetti Quartet has won innumerable prizes and awards, travelled widely on four continents, performed in many of the most prestigious concert halls in Europe and is honoured in Vienna with its own annual concert series. One of Austria’s foremost chamber groups, in other words.
Of the many mansions in Bratislava, the grandest is the Primatial Palace, formerly the seat of the Archbishop of Hungary and now the Town Hall. It was completed in 1781 to designs by Melchior Hefele. The concert takes place in the Mirror Hall, the main reception room.
In acknowledgement of its location towards the eastern parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the programme includes quartets by Haydn (String Quartet in G, Op.77 No.1) and Antonín Dvořák (No.12 in F major, Op.96, ‘American’). There is also a piece by Angelika Tröndle, a young Austrian composer.
Return to the ship for dinner and sail upstream overnight to Vienna.
Day 5, Friday 26 August
Moor again at Nussdorf in Vienna. Much of the day is free to explore the city and visit a museum or two. The Kunsthistorisches Museum should not be missed, the Belvedere Palace has paintings by Klimt, the Beethoven apartment is fascinating, MAK an exciting museum of decorative arts. We will give guidance.
Vienna, Palais Ferstel
Enrico Onofri conductor
Selina Ott trumpet
The concert takes place at the Palais Ferstel, an opulent neo-medieval building of the 1860s. It cleverly accommodated a stock exchange (the concert is in the dealing room), a bank, offices, shops and the famous Café Central, its lavishness manifesting the return of confidence and prosperity after the shocks of 1848 (revolutions) and before the further shock of 1866 (the Prussian war). It is named after its architect, Heinrich Ferstel (designer also of the Votivkirche).
The Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra was founded by Adam Fischer in 1987 to bring together musicians from both sides of the Iron Curtain, a serious challenge at the time. One result was their recording of all Haydn’s symphonies. The highest critical acclaim accrued, leading to touring world-wide. They have been renamed the Haydn Philharmonic. The guest conductor, baroque violin specialist Enrico Onofri, has worked with many orchestras across Europe including the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra.
The programme: Joseph Haydn’s brilliant Trumpet Concerto, the rarely heard Symphony No. 39 in C by Michael Haydn and the magnificent ‘Jupiter’ Symphony in C by Mozart.
Dinner on board, though lingering in Vienna is an option. Sail upstream in the early morning.
Day 6, Saturday 27 August
Moor at Tulln and drive through charming countryside to the village of Atzenbrugg.
Concert, 10.30am or 11.50am:
Amatis Piano Trio
A modest 17th-century manor house, Schloss Atzenbrugg was at the centre of an estate which was administered by the uncle of one of Franz Schubert’s circle, Franz von Schober. Schubert and friends holidayed here in July 1820, 1821 and 1822, and indulged in entertainments of the sort which came to be known as ‘Schubertiade’.
The Amatis Piano Trio play just one piece, Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat (D929), one of his last and most profound works. The performance is repeated as the hall is too small to accommodate all the audience in one sitting.
The Amatis is outstanding among young chamber groups, highly skilled, of course, but also demonstrating exceptional musicality. It was founded in Amsterdam in 2014, has been based in Paris and London and is now resident in Salzburg. Early in its career it won prestigious prizes in Amsterdam (2014) and London (2015) and the group was quickly taken up by major concert halls and festivals across Europe.
Return to the ship, which during the afternoon passes through some of the most gorgeous riverine landscape in Europe, culminating in the wine-producing region of the Wachau.
Moor at Dürnstein, perhaps the loveliest little town on the Danube. An enchanting Baroque church tower perched above the river signals the monastery, venue for the evening concert.
Dürnstein Abbey, Prälatensaal
Andreas Staier fortepiano
Haydn, Mozart, Schubert
Andreas Staier first achieved fame as a harpsichordist before becoming one of the very finest among the select band of fortepiano players. He performs at numerous music festivals worldwide both as a soloist and with ensembles, such as the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Concerto Köln.
The programme: Mozart’s Fantasie in C minor K475; Joseph Haydn’s Piano Sonata in Eb major Hob. XVl.49 and Variations in F minor Hob.XVII/6; and Schubert’s Piano Sonata in Bb major D.960.
The Prälatensaal is a small hall with frescoed walls, painted wooden ceiling and windows onto the river, an appropriately intimate setting for music which was composed in the expectation of a few dozen listeners at most.
Sail overnight to Linz.
Day 7, Sunday 28 August
Arrive in Linz towards the end of the morning. The historic capital of Upper Austria, Linz is a picturesque maze of streets, alleys and historic buildings grouped around a huge market square, only yards from the mooring. There is time for some independent exploration before the afternoon concert.
Linz, Palais Kaufmännischer Verein
Amatis Piano Trio
The Amatis Piano (see Day 6) provide the final concert. Brahms’s Piano Trio No.1 is on the menu, but negotiations are continuing at the time of writing about what exactly the rest of the programme will consist of.
The Palais Kaufmännischer Verein, opened in 1898, is a building of a sort that was a peculiarity of the Habsburg Empire, a suite of richly ornamented rooms and halls for meetings, receptions, balls and concerts. The concert is in the Bildersaal, so called because of wall paintings of historic scenes.
Sail upstream overnight from Linz to Passau, with a reception and dinner against a backdrop of river and wooded hills receding into the dusk.
Day 8, Monday 29 August
The ship moors at Passau and coaches leave for Munich city centre and the airport between 8.30 and 9.30am. See 'Practicalities' for the options available for return travel to London. Selecting Option 2 allows for an afternoon of independent sightseeing in Munich.
i. The ship
iii. Travel options
vi. Travel advice
Launched in 2019, the Amadeus Star is one of the most comfortable cruisers on the waterways of Europe. The multinational crew is dedicated to the highest standards of service.
With a floor area of 16m2 (Haydn deck) or 17m2 (Strauss and Mozart decks) the cabins are reasonably spacious by the standards of river cruisers. All have windows to the outside and are equipped with the facilities one would expect of a first-class hotel such as adjustable air-conditioning, telephone, TV and safe.
Bathrooms have showers only. Special attention has been paid to noise insulation.
In layout and furnishings the cabins are identical, the significant differences being the size of windows and height above water level (higher cabins enjoy better views and fewer stairs).
Cabins on the top decks (Mozart and Strauss) are the most desirable, with floor-to-ceiling windows which slide open and minibars. There are twelve suites (Mozart) measuring 26m2 with a corner sofa area and small balcony. Cabins on the lowest (Haydn) deck have smaller windows which don’t open. There are no single cabins as such but we are allocating some twin-bed cabins for single occupancy.
The public areas include the lounge and bar, a library area and a restaurant that can seat everyone at a single sitting. The sun deck has a tented area for shade.
Haydn deck – lowest
Two sharing: £3,310 per person
Single occupancy: £3,910
Strauss deck – middle
Two sharing: £3,990 per person
Single occupancy: £4,710
Mozart deck – top
Two sharing: £4,440 per person
Single occupancy: £5,240
Suites – Mozart deck
Two sharing: £5,260 per person
Not available for single occupancy
No flights: if you choose not to take one of the flight options, there is a price reduction of £190 per person.
Flights with Lufthansa from London or Manchester to Munich are included in the price. Or you can choose to make your own arrangements for travel to and from the festival, for which there is a price reduction.
Option 1: Heathrow, lunch at Landshut
Monday 22nd August: London Heathrow to Munich (LH 2471) departing at 09.00 and arriving at 11.50. Break the drive to Passau with lunch at Landshut, a former capital of Bavaria. There are two hours here; it should be possible to see the main street with its Renaissance and Baroque house fronts, the great Gothic church of St Martin or the precociously Italianate Renaissance ducal palace.
Monday 29th August: Munich to London Heathrow (LH 2476) departing at 14.45 and arriving at 15.45.
Option 2: Heathrow, free time in Munich
Monday 22nd August: London Heathrow to Munich (LH 2473) departing at 10.55 and arriving at 13.45. Drive directly from the airport to the ship at Passau, a journey of under two hours.
Monday 29th August: Munich to London Heathrow (LH 2482) departing at 19.45 and arriving at 20.45. Coaches take you first to the centre of Munich, where you have about four hours of free time.
Option 3: Manchester
Monday 22nd August: Manchester to Munich (LH 2501) departing at 10.45 and arriving at 13.40. Drive directly from the airport to the ship at Passau, a journey of under two hours.
Monday 29th August: Munich to London Manchester (LH 2502) departing at 15.55 and arriving at 17.00. Coaches take you first to the centre of Munich, where you have about two hours of free time.
Flights from other destinations
It may be possible to book individual flights from alternative destinations – please contact us to discuss your requirements.
It is possible to travel by train from London to Passau, c. 16 hours outbound via Brussels and overnight, arriving early Monday morning. The return journey takes c. 12 hours via Frankfurt and Brussels.
Contact us for more information.
The no group travel option
You can choose not to take any of our flight options and to make your own arrangements for joining and leaving the ship. You are welcome to join our airport coach transfers if your flights or trains coincide with any of the options above.
Price reduction for ‘no flights’: £190.
The price for pre-festival tour King Ludwig II includes the option of a return flight – out at the start of the tour, and back at the end of the festival.
All pre-festival tour participants return to the UK on festival flight option 1.
We charge for flights, if you are taking them, as part of your pre-festival tour booking. You therefore pay the ‘no flights’ price for the festival.
More about the concerts
Private. All the performances are planned and administered by us, and the audience consists exclusively of those who have taken the festival package.
Seating. Specific seats are not reserved. You sit where you want.
Acoustics. This festival is more concerned with locale and authenticity than with acoustic perfection. The venues may have idiosyncrasies or reverberations of the sort not found in modern concert halls.
Changes. Musicians fall ill, venues may close for repairs, airlines alter schedules: there are many circumstances which could necessitate changes to the programme. We ask you to be understanding should they occur.
Floods and droughts. We cannot rule out changes to the programme arising from exceptionally high or low water levels on the Danube, either of which may bring river traffic to a halt. These might necessitate more travel by coach or the loss of a concert, though we would always try to minimise the impact on the itinerary.
Fitness for the festival
Quite a lot of walking is necessary to reach the concert venues and to get around the towns visited. The ship has a lift, but some of the venues do not. Participants need to be averagely fit, sure-footed and able to manage everyday walking and stairclimbing without difficulty.
We ask that you take the simple fitness tests before booking.
If you have a medical condition or a disability which may affect your holiday or necessitate special arrangements being made for you, please discuss these with us before booking – or, if the condition develops or changes subsequently, as soon as possible before departure.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.
'The opportunity to hear top class artists in attractive surroundings without the hassle of booking, travel and planning is worth a lot.'
'Outstanding. It would be hard to think of where else one might attend such a series of concerts of such a high standard in so short a period of time. It was a quality tour, in a beautiful part of the world, with world class concerts supported by good food and wine.'
'This was my first experience of cruising but I hope not my last. The ship was comfortable and the crew provided good service. The food was excellent.'
'One of the best organised holidays in my experience; superb attention to detail, very good lecturers, excellent musicians. A world class experience.'
'The music was very high quality with the enjoyments of listening to it heightened by the settings in which it was performed. Overall I thought the programme was most thoughtfully put together to give a balanced and memorable musical experience.'