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Music Along the Danube - A musical voyage through Habsburg heartland via Europe's most sublime waterway

31 Aug - 07 Sep 2019 Fully booked

  • 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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Concerts take place in historic buildings which 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 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 25th year, the festival is established as a prestigious event in the musical calendar and features musicians of the highest calibre from Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Britain.
The festival explores the music of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, perhaps the richest seam in the world. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Dvořák form the core of this year’s programmes, along with a number of less familiar names. Some of the best-loved music in the Classical and Romantic repertoire is performed as well as little-known pieces.
The concerts are private, being exclusive to the hundred or so participants who take a package which includes accommodation, meals, interval drinks, travel by air, river and road, lectures and much else besides.
The small size of the audience and of the venues leads to an informality and intimacy which 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.
Musicologist Stephen Johnson, and star historian, Professor Sir Richard Evans, give daily lectures on the ship. Music critic, writer and broadcaster Richard Wigmore leads the walking party.
Their brief is to enlighten and stimulate, not merely to inform, and they are chosen not only for their knowledge but also for their ability to communicate clearly and engagingly. 

The Festival Package

Access to the concerts is exclusive to those who take the festival package, the price for which includes:

– Nine concerts (seven for the walking party) and daily lectures.

– Accommodation on a first-class river cruiser for seven nights or in hotels for the walking party.

– Flights between the UK and Munich for those on the ship, or London and Vienna for the walking party. Reduced price if you choose to opt out of these.

– All meals, with wine, and interval drinks. Or for the walkers, 5 dinners and 4 lunches.

– Coach travel between the airport and ship or hotel and to the concert venues, when not reached on foot.

– All tips, taxes and admission charges.

– A detailed programme booklet.

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


The Musicians

London Winds

A stunning combination of virtuoso players who also enjoy active solo careers, London Winds’ performances are renowned for their technical brilliance, interpretative vision and joie de vivre. Founded in 1988 by British clarinettist Michael Collins, the group is now recognised as one of the world’s most prominent chamber ensembles.

Regular guests at all the major British festivals, London Winds have performed at the BBC Proms, City of London, Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Bath, Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Cheltenham.

Michael Collins

Michael Collins is one of the most complete musicians of his generation. With a continuing, distinguished career as a soloist, he has in recent years also become highly regarded as a conductor. From 2010–2018 he was the Principal Conductor of the City of London Sinfonia.

Haydn Philharmonic

The Haydn Philharmonic – orchestra in residence at Esterházy Palace – was founded by Adam Fischer in 1987 as Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic with the intention of bringing together the best musicians from both countries to perform the works of Joseph Haydn in an effort to overcome the border created by the Iron Curtain.

Highlights of the 2017/18 season have included Haydn’s Seasons at Esterházy Palace Eisenstadt as well as an extensive tour through Japan.

German-French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt has been Artistic Director of the Haydn Philharmonic since 2015. One of today’s most sought-after and versatile artists, he performs and conducts repertoire spanning early music to the contemporary.

Stuart Jackson

Stuart was a choral scholar at Christ Church, Oxford, studying Biological Sciences, before completing his training at the Royal Academy of Music in 2013 where he studied with Ryland Davies. He won second prizes at both the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition and at the Hugo Wolf Competition in Stuttgart.

Concert highlights this season include Messiah and St Matthew Passion on tour with the Orchestra of the 18th Century and Messiah with the Hallé Orchestra and John Butt. Stuart also makes his debut at English National Opera as Narraboth in Salome.

Julius Drake

Pianist Julius Drake enjoys an international reputation as one of the finest instrumentalists in his field, collaborating with many of the world’s leading artists, both in recital and on disc.

His passionate interest in song has led to invitations to devise song series for Wigmore Hall, London, the BBC and The Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. A series of song recitals – Julius Drake and Friends – in the historic Middle Temple Hall in London, has featured recitals with many outstanding vocal artists including Sir Thomas Allen, Olaf Bär, Iestyn Davies, Veronique Gens, Sergei Leiferkus, Dame Felicity Lott, Simon Keenlyside and Sir Willard White.

Kristian Bezuidenhout

Kristian Bezuidenhout is one of today’s most notable and exciting keyboard artists, equally at home on the fortepiano, harpsichord, and modern piano. Born in South Africa in 1979, he began his studies in Australia and now lives in London. He first gained international recognition at the age of 21 after winning the prestigious first prize, and audience prize in the Bruges Fortepiano Competition.

Kristian is a regular guest with the world’s leading ensembles and in 2013 he was nominated as Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year. Recent releases include Volume 2 of Mozart Piano Concertos with the Freiburger Barockorchester.

Wiener Kammerchor

One of Austria’s finest choirs, the Wiener Kammerchor (Vienna Chamber Choir) performs throughout the country and abroad and has made many recordings. Since its founding in 1947, the Choir has developed into a trend-setting international ensemble for the modern interpretation of choral music. It occupies a place on the Austrian cultural scene and at a range of important European festivals that would otherwise be difficult to fill.

Their conductor, Michael Grohotolsky, teaches at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts and is also a freelance voice coach and lecturer.

Wihan Quartet

Formed in 1985, the Wihan quartet has developed an outstanding reputation for the interpretation of its native Czech heritage, and of the many classical, romantic and modern masterpieces of the string quartet repertoire. 

The Quartet’s recording of Dvorák Op.34/Op.105 was chosen as a ‘Recording of the Year’ by BBC Music Magazine.

The Quartet has won many International Competitions including The Prague Spring Festival and the Osaka ‘Chamber Festa’. In 1991, they won both the First Prize and the Audience Prize in the London International String Quartet Competition.

Martin Kasík

Martin Kasík ranks among the foremost Czech pianists today. He has won many prizes including the prestigious New York Young Concert Artists Competition in 1999 where he was also awarded the Pasadena Symphony Soloist Prize. Other honours include First Prize in the Prague Spring Competition in 1998, the 1999 Akzo Nobel Prize, and the prestigious Davidoff Prize, awarded to him in 2000.

Martin has given concerts at many major European venues as well in as the USA and Asia. He has appeared as a soloist with a number of orchestras including the New York Chamber Orchestra and Prague Symphony Orchestra.


Founded by Paul McCreesh in 1982, Gabrieli Consort & Players are world-renowned interpreters of great choral and instrumental repertoire from the Renaissance to the present day. Their performances encompass major works from the oratorio tradition, virtuosic a cappella programmes and mould-breaking reconstructions of music for historical events.

They are regular visitors to the world’s most prestigious concert halls, and their recordings have garnered numerous international awards. 2019 is the twenty-first year of fruitful collaboration between the Gabrieli and Martin Randall Travel.

Their conductor and artistic director Paul McCreesh is not only recognised as one of the most authoritative and exciting conductors of the earlier repertoire, on the concert platform and in the opera house, but is also much sought after across Europe as a guest conductor for later music.

Consone Quartet

Formed at the Royal College of Music in London, the Consone Quartet explores Classical and early Romantic repertoire on period instruments.

Winners of the 2016 Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble Prize, they recently recorded their first CD of Haydn and Mendelssohn on the Ambronay Label as alumni of the EEEmerging (Emerging European Ensembles) Scheme in France.

The group has performed around the UK and Europe and on tour in South America.

Travelling in Comfort

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 (150 maximum). The MS Amadeus Star is one of the most comfortable ships on European waters.

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 hotel or drive long distances. The itinerary takes you through some of the most picturesque stretches of the Danube.

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 Walking Alternative

You can opt to join the walking party and mix the concerts with country walks, staying in hotels along the way.

Seven of nine concerts are included, and there are five guided walks of 2–3 hours through ravishing scenery.

For more information, please click here.


Day 1: Saturday 31 August

Fly from London or Manchester or make your way to Passau independently. For travel options, see Practicalities.

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 dominated by a great Baroque cathedral and crammed with historic buildings. 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.

After sailing at 6.30pm there is a reception followed by dinner.

Day 2: 
Sunday 1 September

Continue sailing downstream during the morning through a highly attractive stretch of the Danube flanked by wooded hills, fields and periodic villages. The series of daily lectures begins.

Towards the end of the morning Melk Abbey appears ahead, dramatically rising on a rock outcrop. Disembark here for a visit to the abbey, one of the most brilliant creations of the Age of Baroque, a sequence comprising ceremonial courtyards, guest apartments, hall and library culminating in a church of unsurpassed decorative richness.

Concert, 4.30pm:

Melk Abbey, Kolomanisaal

Wind Quintets

London Winds

Michael Collins clarinet

Central European monasteries enjoyed a final flowering in the 18th century, and many ranked as considerable patrons of music. Mozart was one of innumerable professional musicians who performed at Melk. The concert is in the lavishly frescoed Kolomanisaal, a second-floor hall not normally accessible to visitors.

The programme consists of Danzi’s
Wind Quintet No.1, and arrangements for wind quintet of Mozart’s Violin Sonata No.32 K.454, Bartok’s Romanian Dances and Dvořák’s String Quartet No.12
Op.96, American.

Return to the ship and resume sailing downstream overnight to Hainburg.

Day 3: 
Monday 2 September
Eszterháza, Eisenstadt

The ship remains moored all day in the little Austrian town of Hainburg, where Haydn went to school.

Drive from Hainburg into Hungary and to Eszterháza, summer residence of Prince Nikolaus ‘the Magnificent’ of Esterházy and hence Joseph Haydn’s principal place of work for nearly 30 years. Perhaps the most beautiful country house in Central Europe, this late-Rococo, early-Neo-Classical confection is being restored to its former glory. Lunch is provided here under a grove of horse-chestnuts (there is a wet-weather alternative).

Concert, 12.15 & 1.45pm:

Eszterháza Palace, Haydn Hall

String Quartets

Consone Quartet

The recital takes place in the principal hall of the palace, which is a delight – white and gold, 18th-century classicism on holiday. Many of Haydn’s compositions would have been performed here for the first time. Seating fewer than a hundred, the audience splits and the 50-minute concert is performed twice. 

The programme comprises two Haydn quartets: Op.20 No.4 in D and Op.74 No.3, Rider.

Leave Eszterháza, cross from Hungary to Austria and drive to Eisenstadt, an attractive country town to the south-east of Vienna. It is dominated by a vast 17th-century mansion, the principal seat of the Esterházy family. As at the summer palace, many of Haydn’s works were first performed here. The concert takes place in the great hall.

Concert, 4.45pm:

Eisenstadt, Schloss Esterházy

Haydn Symphonies

Haydn Philharmonic
Nicolas Altstaedt director

The programme includes Haydn’s Symphonies No.102 in B flat and No.60 in C, Il distratto.

Return to the ship and sail upstream during the evening. Moor in Vienna-Nussdorf during the night.

Day 4: 
Tuesday 3 September

The ship is moored at Nussdorf, 20 minutes by coach from the centre of Vienna.

Principal seat of the Habsburgs for over six hundred 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 magnificently imperious and the charmingly unpretentious, and it remains one of the world’s greatest centres of art and music.

There is time to explore the city and an art gallery or two – the Kunsthistorisches Museum should not be missed – before the 4.00pm recital.

Recital, 4.00pm:

Vienna, Albertina

Lieder by Schubert & Mahler

Stuart Jackson tenor
Julius Drake piano

The Albertina, a Habsburg residence named after a son-in-law of Empress Maria Theresa, is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of prints and drawings. The building was refurbished at the beginning of the 19th century, and the light-filled, delicately Neo-Classical Hall of the Muses where the concert takes place is contemporary with Schubert’s maturity.

Rising star Stuart Jackson joins forces with pianist Julius Drake to perform a programme including Lieder by Schubert and Mahler.

After the concert join the ship at Nussdorf, sail upstream and moor towards midnight at Krems.

Day 5: 
Wednesday 4 September
Grafenegg, Dürnstein

Disembark for the short drive to Schloss Grafenegg, a medieval country residence, which was augmented with one of Austria’s most flamboyant and successful essays in Gothic Revival.

Recital, 11.00am:

Schloss Grafenegg, Gartensaal

Solo piano: Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart

Kristian Bezuidenhout fortepiano

At the end of a procession of salons, elaborately decorated with carved and inlaid woodwork, the 1840s Garden Room is filled with natural light. This is the intimate setting for a recital with renowned fortepianist, Kristian Bezuidenhout. The programme includes Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Pathétique, Mozart’s Sonata No.14, K.457 and Haydn’s Variations in F minor.

Return to the ship and sail for an hour through the Wachau, one of the most beautiful stretches of the Danube. Moor at Dürnstein, perhaps the loveliest little town on the river. The ruins of a castle in which Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned cling to a steep hill which rears behind, while a gorgeous Baroque abbey church perches on the waterfront. Disembark for some free time before an early evening concert.

Concert, 6.00pm:

Dürnstein Abbey, Church

Vienna: Then & Now

Wiener Kammerchor

Michael Grohotolsky director

The first of this evening’s concerts sees the Vienna Chamber Choir combine motets by Schubert, Bruckner and Haydn with modern and contemporary works including Max Reger’s Nachtlied (Night Song) Op.138, No.3.

Dinner is on-board the ship before we return to the abbey for a second concert. The venue is the abbey’s principal reception room, handsomely decorated with Neo-Classical frescoes and overlooking the Danube. 

Concert, 9.00pm:

Dürnstein Abbey, Prälatensaal

Time & Dimension

Vokalensemble Alxingers

A sextet formed in 2010 by members of the Wiener Kammerchor perform an a cappella programme including works by Monteverdi, Debussy and Brahms.

Sail to Vienna-Nussdorf during the night.

Day 6: 
Thursday 5 September

Wake up at Nussdorf. There is more free time in Vienna with the opportunity to join a guided visit at the Belvedere or Otto Wagner’s secessionist masterpiece, the Kirche am Steinhof. Converge for an afternoon concert at the Palais Ferstel, a beautiful, opulent neo-medieval building of the 1860s. It formerly accommodated the stock exchange and a bank and still houses offices, shops and the famous
Café Central.

Concert, 3.30pm:

Vienna, Palais Ferstel

Piano Quintets

Wihan Quartet

Martin Kasík piano

The combination of string quartet and piano makes the piano quintet a singularly powerful ensemble as it joins two self-sufficient forces in a grand partnership. Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34, a dark, mighty work of tremendous scope and Dvorák’s Piano Quintet in A, Op.81 are the twin peaks of the repertoire for this instrumentation.

Sail overnight to Linz, mooring before lunch tomorrow.

Day 7: 
Friday 6 September

Arrive in Linz, the historic capital of Upper Austria, towards the end of the morning. A picturesque maze of streets, alleys and historic buildings is grouped around the huge market square, only yards from the mooring.

Concert, 2.30pm:

Linz, Palais Kaufmännischer Verein

Mozart’s Last Symphonies


Paul McCreesh conductor

Mozart’s last three symphonies (Nos 39–41) form an extraordinary trio and a fitting finale to the festival. Written in a miraculous blaze during the summer of 1788, Gabrieli perform all three in chronological order, interspersed with short talks and drinks.

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: 
Saturday 7 September
Passau, Munich

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.


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.

Accommodation & Prices

The Ship

The Amadeus Star is one of the newest ships in the Lüftner fleet, and one of the most comfortable river cruisers in 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 which can seat everyone at a single sitting. The sun deck has a tented area for shade.


Haydn deck – lowest

Two sharing: £3,290 per person

Single occupancy: £3,940

Strauss deck – middle

Two sharing: £3,970 per person

Single occupancy: £4,760

Mozart deck – top

Two sharing: £4,410 per person

Single occupancy: £5,290

Suites – Mozart deck

Two sharing: £5,180 per person

Not available for single occupancy

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

Festival 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

Saturday 31st 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.

Saturday 7th September

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

Option 2: London Heathrow

Saturday 31st 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.

Saturday 7th September

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

Saturday 31st 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.

Saturday 7th September

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.

Note that it is not usually possible to arrange connecting flights between Manchester and other regional UK airports.

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.

Optional Pre-festival Tours

These have their own outbound flight arrangements. All pre-festival tour participants then return to the UK on festival flight option 2.

King Ludwig II, 26–31 August 2019.
Vienna’s Masterpieces27–31 August 2019.
Great Houses of the Czech Lands23–31 August 2019.

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.'