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The Danube: Celebrating Beethoven

Full details will be published in July 2019

Nine private concerts.

Daily lectures on the music.

Accommodation on a first-class river cruiser for seven nights.

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 reached on foot.

All tips, taxes, admission charges.

A detailed programme booklet.

The assistance of an experienced team of German-speaking festival staff.

31 Aug - 07 Sep 2019 £3,290 Book this tour

  • Grein, steel engraving c. 1850.
    Grein, steel engraving c. 1850.
  • Music Along the Danube
    The Danube at Persenbeug, early 20th-century etching by Luigi Kasimir.
  • Vienna, Karlskirche, 20th-century etching.
    Vienna, Karlskirche, 20th-century etching.
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Fully booked. You can view the brochure here.



This festival combines music and architecture in a singularly beguiling way. Concerts take place in historic buildings which are some of the most beautiful in the Danube valley – palaces, churches, monasteries and country houses.

But the value of the juxtaposition goes deeper. The buildings are generally of the same period as the music performed in them, and in some cases there are specific and potent historical associations between the two.

Now in its 26th year, the festival is established as a prestigious event in the musical calendar and features musicians of the highest calibre from Austria, the Czech Republic and Britain. This iteration of the festival is a celebration of Beethoven in the 250th anniversary of his birth. Some of his greatest works are heard alongside a few lesser-performed delights. A smattering of Schubert provides some musical variation.

The concerts are private, being exclusive to the hundred or so participants who take the festival package (see details opposite). 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 among the best in the world – attentive, knowledgeable and appreciative.

Daily talks on the music by Richard Wigmore enlighten and stimulate, as well as inform.

To this exceptional artistic and intellectual experience is added a further pleasure: the comfort and convenience of a first class river cruiser, chartered exclusively for the festival audience (160 maximum).

Acting as both hotel and principal means of transport, it enables passengers to attend all the concerts and see some of the finest art and architecture in the region without having to change accommodation or drive long distances.

In many ways, however, this venture is 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 musicians

Roderick Williams OBE 

Baritone Roderick Williams OBE performs Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte and Schubert’s Schwanengesang.


Haydn Philharmonie

The masterly Haydn Philharmonie performs Beethoven’s Symphonies 1 & 7 and Romance in F in a spectacular Viennese hall.


The Guarneri Trio

The Guarneri Trio play Beethoven’s Ghost and Schubert’s No.2 Op.100, two of the best-loved piano trios.


Imogen Cooper 

Imogen Cooper takes the stage with Beethoven’s monumental Diabelli Variations.


The Vienna Chamber Choir 

The Vienna Chamber Choir perform Beethoven’s glorious Mass in C in the Bergkirche in Eisenstadt, where it was premiered – a perfect union of music and place.


The Elias

The Elias, who have received rapturous reviews of their recordings of the string quartets, play three contrasting masterpieces.


The Pavel Haas

The Pavel Haas, one of the top string quartets in the world, performs works by Beethoven and Schubert in Grein’s enchanting 1791 theatre.


To be confirmed

A recital of Beethoven sonatas on a contemporary instrument by one of the finest fortepianists.

Beethoven’s ebullient Septet and Schubert’s irresistibly tuneful Octet in Melk Abbey, one of Central Europe’s greatest architectural achievements of the Baroque era.


More about the concerts

Private events. These concerts are planned and administered by Martin Randall Travel. The audience consists exclusively of those who have booked the full festival package or walking tour.

Acoustics. This festival is more concerned with authenticity and ambience than acoustical perfection. While some of the venues have excellent acoustics, others have idiosyncrasies not found in modern concert halls.

Seating. Specific seats are not reserved. You sit where you want.

Changes. Musicians fall ill, venues require restoration, airlines alter schedules: there are many unforeseeable 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.

Professor Sir Richard J. Evans

Regius Professor Emeritus of History and President of Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge, and Provost of Gresham College, London. He is the author of numerous books on Central European history, including The Coming of the Third Reich, The Third Reich in Power and The Third Reich at War. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914, a volume in the Penguin History of Europe, recently issued in paperback.

Image of Stephen Johnson

Stephen Johnson

Writer, broadcaster and composer Stephen Johnson is the author of books on Beethoven, Bruckner, Wagner and Mahler. For 14 years he presented BBC Radio 3’s Discovering Music. His orchestral work Behemoth Dances was premiered in 2016 by the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, and his Clarinet Quintet Angel's Arc had its first performance in January 2019 His book about music and mental health, How Shostakovich Changed My Mind, was published in May 2018. His book about Mahler's Eighth Symphony, Symphony of a Thousand, is due to be published in 2020.

Image of Richard Wigmore

Richard Wigmore

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.

Accommodation and prices 

Launched in 2018, the MS Nickovision is one of the newest ships in the Nicko fleet, and one of the more modern river cruisers in Europe.

Public areas: lounge, bar and three restaurants, the biggest of which can accommodate the majority of passengers in one sitting.

There are two smaller restaurants (seating 60 and 30 passengers respectively), where an á la carte menu is served. This can be booked on the day and passengers choose to eat at a time that suits them (schedule permitting). The cost of dinner is included regardless of where one decides to eat on board.

Cabins on the top decks (Middle and Upper) are the most desirable, with floor-to-ceiling windows that slide open. Cabins on the lowest deck have smaller windows that don’t open.

In layout and furnishings the cabins are identical, significant differences being the size of windows and height above water level (higher cabins enjoy better views and fewer stairs). The floor area of 14m2 (all cabins) is smaller than some comparable cruisers.

All cabins have: windows, adjustable air-conditioning, telephone, TV and safe. Bathrooms have showers only. There are no single cabins as such, but we are allocating a number of twin-bed cabins for single occupancy.


Main deck – lowest

Two sharing: £3,110 per person

Single occupancy: £3,580


Middle deck

Two sharing: £3,710 per person

Single occupancy: £4,270


Upper deck

Two sharing: £4,180 per person

Single occupancy: £4,810

No flights: subtract £170 per person from the prices above.

Flight options

We are offering a choice of three scheduled Lufthansa flights to Munich, from London or Manchester.

Please note that each outbound flight is tied to a particular inbound flight. You cannot mix flights from different options.


Option 1: London Heathrow

Monday 24th August

Fly from London Heathrow to Munich (LH 2471) departing 09.00, arriving 11.45. 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 31st August

Return to London Heathrow (LH 2476) departing Munich 14.40 and arriving in London at 15.45. 


Option 2: London Heathrow

Monday 24th August

Fly from London Heathrow to Munich (LH 2473) departing at 10.55, arriving 13.40. Drive from the airport to the ship at Passau, a journey of under two hours.

Monday 31st August

Return to London Heathrow (LH 2480) departing Munich 18.35, arriving in London at 19.40. Coaches take you first to the centre of Munich, where you have about four hours of free time.


Option 3: Manchester

Monday 24th August

Fly from Manchester to Munich (LH 2501) departing 10.45, arriving 13.45. Drive directly from the airport to the ship at Passau, a journey of under two hours.

Monday 31st August

Return to Manchester (LH 2502), departing Munich 15.55, arriving 17.00. Coaches take you first to the centre of Munich, where you have about two hours of free time.


The No-flights Option

You can choose not to take any of these flights and to make your own arrangements for joining at Passau, boarding the ship between 4.00pm and 6.00pm. You are welcome to join one of the group transfers from Munich Airport.

Pre-festival tours

These have their own outbound flight arrangements.

Franconia (17–24 August 2020)

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.

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. There is no age limit but we do ask that you assess your fitness by trying the following simple exercises:

Are you fit enough to join the tour?


Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCO 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.'