Considered solely in terms of the musicians who perform there, Hindsgavl can claim to be one of Europe’s finest chamber music festivals. Resident instrumentalists for the 2021 edition include the award-winning Trio con Brio Copenhagen; versatile violinist Isabelle Faust, renowned for her playing on both period and modern instruments; Canadian-born cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, a brilliant exponent of the instrument’s entire repertoire from Bach to the present day; and world renowned pianist and conductor Sir Andràs Schiff.
The vocal talent on display is no less impressive: with recitals from superstar baritone Christian Gerhaher and fast-rising French-Italian mezzo-soprano Lea Desandre.
But the musical programme, superlative though it is, is only part of what makes this festival so special. All the concerts take place in the magnificent Hindsgavl Castle, whose history dates back to the early thirteenth century and includes moments of international significance – it was here in 1814 that King Frederik VI signed the treaty renouncing Denmark’s claim to Norway.
The castle is also where the festival musicians eat and sleep; like many of the audience members, we will stay there too, guaranteeing opportunities to mix with the musicians in an informal setting and to hear them rehearse and discuss the music they will perform.
Nor are the musicians the castle’s only attraction: its exquisite grounds are punctuated by pavilions, streams and ponds and feature orchards and gardens that supply ingredients for the castle’s chefs (breakfast and a pre-concert dinner are included each day on site). Hans Christian Andersen was a frequent visitor to Hindsgavl and described its view – which now takes in an extensive deer park as well as the ‘Little Belt’ separating the island of Funen from Jutland – as one of Denmark’s finest.
A centre for music-making since 1951, Hindsgavl now offers its fortunate festival-goers a heady combination of architectural, natural and musical beauty.
Fly at c. 10.00am from London Heathrow to Copenhagen (British Airways) and drive to Hindsgavl Castle, crossing the straits between Zealand and Funen on the 12-mile Storebælt Bridge. There is a little time to settle into rooms before an introductory lecture and dinner. An evening concert with Pavel Haas Quartet: String quartets by Martinú and Dvořák.
Start with a lecture on this evening’s performance. Drive to Egeskov and visit a 17th-century moated mansion, well furnished, with park and gardens. Return to Hindsgavl in time for an afternoon ‘Rising Star’ concert (artists and programme to be confirmed). Dinner precedes an evening concert with Christian Gehaher (baritone),
Isabelle Faust, Anne Katharina Schreiber (violin), Timothy Ridout, Danusha Waskiewicz (viola), Jean-Guihen Queyras, Christian Poltéra (cello): Othmar Schoeck, Notturno, Op. 47; Schönberg, Sextet, Op. 4 ‚‘Verklärte Nacht'; Berlioz, Les nuits d'été, Op. 7.
The morning is free to visit the Ceramics Museum in nearby Middelfart. A midday lecture before lunch and an afternoon concert with Joséphine Olech (flute), Sindy Mohamed (viola), Anaïs Gaudemar (harp): works by Fauré, Saint-Saëns and Debussy. Dinner precedes an evening recital with Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Alexandre Melnikov (piano): Beethoven, Cello sonata No.2 in G minor, Op. 5, Cello sonata No. 3 in A, Op. 69; Schumann, Fantasiestücke in A minor, Op. 73; Chopin, Cello sonata in G minor, Op. 65.
A lecture on this evening’s performance before driving to Odense, a delightful town where old and new blend well with little cobbled streets, rehabilitated industrial buildings, riverside park and a Gothic cathedral. The Funen Art Museum has a comprehensive collection of Danish painting, the best outside Copenhagen. There is some free time, perhaps to visit the Hans Christian Andersen birthplace museum. Return to Hindsgavl in time for an afternoon concert with Thomas Dunford (lute), Théotime Langlois de Swarte, (violin): works by Purcell and Eccles. Dinner in a seafront restaurant precedes an evening concert with Trio con Brio Copenhagen: Per Nørgård, Spell; Mendelssohn, Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 66; Schubert, Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 100, D929.
Morning lecture befroe driving the to Aarhus, crossing by bridge to Jutland. A tour of Arne Jacobsen’s town hall (finished 1942), one of Modernism’s icons, and some free time. Suggested is ARoS Art Museum (2004), a brick and glass cube housing historic Danish art, as well as some significant pieces of modern art, or the Old Town Museum where 16th- to 19th-century buildings from all over Denmark are reassembled to form an enchanting little town. Return to Hindsgavl late afternoon. Dinner before an evening concert with Ensemble Jupiter,
Lea Desandre (soprano): a Franco-Italian Baroque programme including works by Vivaldi, Francesco Cavalli and Marin Marais.
Some free time to explore the grounds of the castle. A late morning boat trip from the castle’s private jetty takes in the beautiful coastline of Funen, with lunch on board. Return for an afternoon lecture and afternoon ‘Rising Star’ concert with the Crescendo Kvartet: Mozart, String Quartet No.17 in B-flat, K.458 'The Hunt'; Jörg Widmann, String Quartet No. 3. Dinner before an evening recital with Sir András Schiff (piano): programme to be announced.
Drive to the fishing village of Kerteminde, which was home to Johannes Larsen (1867–1961), leader of the Funen school. His house, studio and gardens are preserved with a new gallery building (Danish Museum of the Year 2007). Lunch here before continuing to Copenhagen airport. Fly to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 6.30pm.
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. Twitter: @BehemothMusic | Website: www.stephen-johnson.co.uk
Price, per person
Two sharing: £3,270 or £3,110 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,820 or £3,660 without flights.
Flights (economy class) with British Airways (aircraft: Airbus A320); coach or boat for excursions as specified in the itinerary; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 6 dinners with wine, water and coffee (5 of these are 2-course pre-concert buffets); 3 lunches; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Tickets for 10 performances are included.
Hindsgavl Slot: a historic 4-star hotel in a converted castle.
There is a fair amount of walking and standing around in museums. Participants need to be fit enough to manage this, the city centre walks and to cope easily with stair climbing. There is a lot of driving on the first and last days, but several days with no driving at all. Average distance by coach per day: 80 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.