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Music along the Rhine - Outstanding music, beautiful countryside and historic towns along Germany’s principal river

Eight private concerts in beautiful and appropriate historic buildings.

Musicians of the highest calibre: a constellation of soloists such as Isabelle Faust, Kristian Bezuidenhout and Sophie Bevan are joined by the dynamic Consone Quartet and many more.

Renowned larger ensembles such as Holland Baroque, Basel Chamber Orchestra, Baden-Baden Philharmonic and Barocksolisten München all appear.

Music from the Baroque to the late Romantic, much of it composed in the countries through which we pass, the greatest Germans well represented (Bach, Brahms, Schumann).

Accommodation on a ship which cruises from Amsterdam to Basel.

Daily talks by leading music expert Dr Katy Hamilton.

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Watch the video from our 2019 festival, 'Opera in Southern Sicily', for an idea of what it is like to join a Martin Randall Festival.

08 - 15 May 2025 £3,640 Book this tour

  • The Rhine at Oberwesel, engraving by Captain Robert Batty 1825.
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There is nothing to match the experience of floating through some of Europe’s loveliest landscapes on the deck of a comfortable river cruiser. There is also little to match the pleasure of a curated sequence of concerts in beautiful historic buildings. This event combines the two to produce an experience which is quite exceptional and unique.

Eight private concerts in beautiful and appropriate historic buildings

There have been twelve previous editions of Music along the Rhine, the first in 1997. Every one has been different, but all have been characterised by the highest quality of performance in venues which are chosen for their beauty or charm or for their music history connection. All are relatively small, leading to an informality and intimacy of musical communication which engenders a heightened artistic experience.

Music from the Baroque to Late Romantic

Many of the greatest composers of both the Baroque and Romantic eras are represented here in force, with Bach, Telemann and Handel contributing to lively programmes. Brahms is a running motif, including his phenomenal piano concertos, a symphony and violin sonatas, with Schumann a close second. Some core classics by Mozart and Beethoven round out the set, as well as lesser-known delights from all eras.

Musicians of the highest calibre

As with all Martin Randall Festivals, the musicians are among the finest in their fields. A constellation of soloists includes internationally renowned artists Isabelle Faust, Kristian Bezuidenhout and Sophie Bevan. Amarilis Dueñas (cello), Joseph Moog (piano) and Marie-Sophie Pollak (soprano) all appear with renowned larger ensembles: Holland Baroque, Basel Chamber Orchestra, Baden-Baden Philharmonic and Barocksolisten München. The dynamic Consone string quartet also join, and Tabea Debus performs on the recorder with duo partner Alon Sariel on the lute.

Accommodation on a first-class river cruiser

Acting as both hotel and principal means of transport, MS Amadeus Cara sails from Amsterdam to Basel, enabling 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 experience differs significantly from conventional cruising in many ways: little regimentation, no obligatory seating plan, no on-board entertainment, minimal announcements – and absolutely no piped music!

Discover the place

The Rhine is one of the world’s great rivers; arguably no other has served such a prominent role in shaping the history and culture of a continent.

On the way from its source in the Swiss Alps to its extinction in the North Sea Basin, the Rhine traverses more than a thousand kilometres and passes through four countries.

For millennia the river has been a vital trading route, linking people across a broad stretch of Europe. At the same time it has always been a boundary, a border, demarcating cultures and nations and empires. It once constituted the Roman Empire’s northern frontier, and there is still much significant archaeology to be found along its banks.

We begin in the Rhine delta, and soon move into the charming scenery of the Lower Rhine. With pollarded willows and grazing cattle interspersed with building clusters of the once heavily industrialised Rhine-Ruhr valley, it is still the largest conurbation in Germany today, the river having once been the heart of Germany’s industrial revolution.

The river’s loveliness reaches a peak in the wine-producing region of the Middle Rhine which starts with a deep gorge, a stretch much evoked in German folklore, poetry and music. On towards the river’s source, we pass through a variety of landscapes and urban scenes. North of Basel, with France on one side, the river is flanked by wooded hills and pasture and is populated by several historic towns.

There is some time to explore a selection of the towns, palaces and gardens along its course, to see some great art and architecture, and to watch the countryside slide by as you travel along Germany’s most important river.

Meet the musicians

Isabelle Faust

Whether in the Baroque style, in the grand concertante gesture or an intensive chamber music exchange, violinist Isabelle Faust always captivates with her high
artistic authority and power of presentation.

After winning the renowned Leopold Mozart and Paganini competitions at a very young age, she soon gave regular performances with major international orchestras and has developed long-term relationships with conductors Andris Nelsons, Giovanni Antonini and Sir Simon Rattle, with whom she toured with in March 2024.

Recent highlights include a celebration of György Ligeti’s 100th birthday with Les Siècles and François-Xavier Roth, collaborations with multiple world-famous orchestras, and chamber music projects with Antoine Tamestit, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Anne Katharina Schreiber and long-standing duo partner Alexander Melnikov.

Alexander Melnikov

Faust’s long-standing duo partner, pianist Alexander Melnikov, is also an artist of broad stylistic perspective. He is just as much in demand as a specialist for historical keyboard instruments as he is as a charismatic performer of Romantic repertoire.

Melnikov completed his studies at the Moscow Conservatory, and was awarded important prizes at eminent competitions such as the International Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau (1989) and the Concours Musical Reine Elisabeth in Brussels (1991).

Known for his often unusual musical and programmatic decisions, Alexander Melnikov developed his career-long interest in historically informed performance practice early on. He performs regularly with distinguished period ensembles including the Freiburger Barockorchester, Musica Aeterna and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and also as a soloist, with many top orchestras.

Tabea Debus

Described by The Times as a ‘charismatic virtuoso’, Tabea Debus is constantly exploring the horizons of music for recorder. As a performer, collaborator and teacher she travels widely across Europe and the USA, and has released six solo discs. Tabea has been awarded numerous prizes, such as the Soloists Prize at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and first prize at the SRP/Moeck International Solo Recorder Competition.

She is recorder professor at the HMTM Hannover and regularly delivers both masterclasses at conservatoires including at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music, as well as workshops to children across the UK and beyond.

Alon Sariel

For the past decade, multi-instrumentalist Alon Sariel has been breathing new life into the lute, inspiring critics and audiences alike with his contagious musicianship and flawless technique. With a record of over a thousand concerts in more than 35 countries, he maintains a multifaceted career as a soloist, chamber musician and artistic director.

In his current recording project Plucked Bach (Pentatone), Sariel approaches Bach’s solo music in enticing new arrangements on different mandolins and lutes, the baroque guitar and the oud. For the Beethoven anniversary in 2020, he was invited by Naxos to record the composer’s works for mandolin and fortepiano. With his album Telemandolin (Berlin Classics) Sariel has become the first mandolinist to be awarded an Opus Klassik award.

Baden-Baden Philharmonic

The Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra has a long and illustrious history dating back to the mid-18th century. Its list of soloists reads like a Who’s Who of music history (Brahms, Liszt, Berlioz, Stravinsky, Clara Schumann). The Orchestra’s residence is today, as it was then, in the town’s Kurhaus (‘spa house’) and it is regarded as one of the pillars of cultural life in this region of Germany. Numerous CD recordings and television and radio productions are testimony to its artistic ability.

From 2023–2025, the orchestra is part of the spectacular performances of Wagner’s Parsifal at the Goetheanum near Basel, Switzerland. With the Carl Flesch Academy, the Philharmonie also offers one of the world’s most renowned master classes for string instrumentalists every year.

Heiko Mathias Förster has been the orchestra’s principal conductor since 2022.

Joseph Moog

Joseph Moog’s passionate musicianship and mesmerising sound aesthetics have been delighting audiences and press for many years. Multiple awards (Gramophone, International Classical Music) and a Grammy nomination are testament to his place on the world stage.

The 2023/2024 season has taken Joseph to major concert halls, festivals and ensembles, including Carnegie Hall New York, National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts in Taiwan, Philharmonie Essen and Sendesaal Bremen. His album, which includes Schumann’s Paganini Etudes and Brahms’ Paganini Variations, was awarded the Diapason d’Or and received rave reviews.

Joseph was awarded the Prix Groupe de Rothschild and became a Steinway Artist in 2009. He is a founding member of the ‘Konz Musik Festival’ near Luxembourg where he now resides and was appointed Cultural Ambassador of his home town Neustadt an der Weinstrasse.

Sophie Bevan MBE

Sophie Bevan is recognised as one of the leading lyric sopranos of her generation. She was made an MBE for services to music in 2019.

She works regularly with leading orchestras, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Finnish Radio Symphony, English Concert,  Concertgebouw and Swedish Radio Orchestras and has appeared regularly at both the Edinburgh and the BBC Proms Festivals. An acclaimed recitalist, she has performed at the Concertgebouw and Wigmore Hall.

Recent and future opera engagements include appearances in major roles at Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, English National Opera and Garsington. She made her debut at Glyndebourne as Michal (Saul) and at the Salzburg Festival and Metropolitan Opera as Beatriz in Adès’ The Exterminating Angel.

Ryan Wigglesworth

Ryan Wigglesworth took up the position of Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in September 2022.

In recent seasons he has appeared with leading orchestras throughout Europe, the USA and Japan, and is a regular guest at the Proms.

Also active as a pianist, recent play/direct projects have included concertos by Mozart and Beethoven, and he regularly appears in recital partnering with Mark Padmore, Lawrence Power and Sophie Bevan.

One of the leading composers of his day, his first opera, The Winter’s Tale, premièred at English National Opera in February 2017 and his most recent work, Magnificat received its UK première with the Hallé in 2023.

Kristian Bezuidenhout

Kristian Bezuidenhout is one of the most notable and exciting keyboard artists of our times, equally at home on the fortepiano, harpsichord, and modern piano.

An Artistic Director of Freiburger Barockorchester and Principal Guest Director with English Concert, he is also a regular guest soloist with ensembles such as Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment  and Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, and he play/directs others, such as Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and Dunedin Consort.

He performs with celebrated artists including John Eliot Gardiner, Giovanni Antonini, Alina Ibragimova, Anne Sofie von Otter, Mark Padmore & Matthias Goerne.

The 2023/24 season sees Kristian perform with Orchestre National de Belgique, Camerata Salzburg and Australian Chamber Orchestra, among others. He also gives recitals with many artists, such as Isabelle Faust and Kristin von der Goltz, Rachel Podger and Chiaroscuro Quartet.

Consone Quartet

The first period instrument string quartet to be selected as BBC New Generation Artists, the Consone Quartet are fast making a name for themselves with their honest and expressive interpretations of repertoire, notably from the Classical and Romantic eras.

Formed at the Royal College of Music in London, the quartet were soon recipients of multiple prizes (EUBO Development Trust, Royal Over-Seas League Ensemble), and in 2022 were awarded a prestigious Borletti-Buitoni Trust (BBT) fellowship.

The quartet has been enthusiastically received at London’s major venues, as well as further afield. Festival invitations include Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Dartington, Two Moors, Buxton and Heidelberger Streichquartettfest.

In 2024 the quartet returns to the English Haydn Festival and the York Early Music Festival. The quartet will return to North America in 2025 to perform both alone and in collaboration with pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout.

Barocksolisten München

Founded in 2010 by Dorothea Seel, Barocksolisten München comprises a cadre of extraordinary soloists, each contributing their unique brilliance to the ensemble’s collective artistry.

The Barocksolisten’s illustrious journey has taken them to prestigious venues and esteemed festivals worldwide, including the Barocktage Stift Melk, Bruehler Schlosskonzerte, and the International Bach Chamber Music Festival Riga.

Collaborations with esteemed vocalists such as Johanna Winkler, Robin Johanssen, Sophie Junker, Marie-Sophie Pollak and the actor August Zirner further enrich their performances, showcasing their versatility and artistic range.

Their discography ranges from Vivaldi to Bach to Johann Zach. Noteworthy releases include Al Capriccio and Fons Amoris, which were both recipients of prestigious awards. In 2024, the ensemble releases Mozart Concerti for Flute K.313, Oboe K.314, and Bassoon K.199.

Marie-Sophie Pollack

Soprano Marie-Sophie Pollak studied at the Munich University of Music and Theatre. She is a regular guest with such renowned orchestras and ensembles as Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and Camerata Salzburg, and has worked alongside conductors including Ivor Bolton, Václav Luks, Kent Nagano, Sir Roger Norrington, Hans-Christoph Rademann and Jean-Christophe Spinosi.

Basel Chamber Orchestra

The Basel Chamber Orchestra is firmly anchored in Basel, with two subscription series at the Stadtcasino Basel and its own rehearsal and performance venue, the Don Bosco Basel. With more than 60 concerts per season, the Basel Chamber Orchestra tours worldwide and is a welcome guest at international festivals and the most important European concert halls, such as the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées Paris and the Theater an der Wien.

The Basel Chamber Orchestra enjoys working with selected soloists such as Maria João Pires, Jan Lisiecki, Isabelle Faust and Christian Gerhaher.

French conductor Marc Minkowski is Artistic Director of Les Musiciens du Louvre and the Ré Majeure Festival. He was General Manager of Opéra national de Bordeaux 2016–2021, Artistic Director of the Mozartwoche in Salzburg 2013–2017, and was principal guest conductor of the Kanazawa Ensemble Orchestra in Japan.

Holland Baroque

Holland Baroque enriches the musical canon with inexhaustible curiosity by approaching the score as an unfinished work of art. Knowledge, skill, imagination and playfulness unite as the Baroque becomes a new experience. From this outlook, Holland Baroque has found its own distinctive sound.

Judith and Tineke Steenbrink, artistic directors and the beating heart of the ensemble, write and arrange for the orchestra and their musical guests. Through their extensive research, they have discovered a treasure trove of repertoire and brought to light forgotten 17th-century composers such as Benedictus a Sancto Josepho.

The orchestra also supports young talent and the future of music by fostering creativity in children. Holland Baroque has been recognised for its quality, dedication, and approach to music-making through awards such as the Edison, the VSCD Award, and the REMA Education Award. The ensemble has recorded eighteen CDs with Channel Classics and Pentatone.

Amarilis Dueñas

Born in Valladolid, Spain, in 1998, Amarilis Dueñas is noted for the balance between precision, intuition and freedom in her playing, and has studied with Jordi Savall, Paolo Pandolfo and Kristin von der Goltz.

Amarilis gives concerts all over Europe on the cello and viola da gamba, both as a soloist and chamber musician, as well as collaborating with Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Concerto Köln and B’Rock Orchestra. She has performed at important halls such as Musikverein Wien, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Kölner Philharmonie and Konzerthaus Berlin.

She has worked on numerous recording projects, including her critically acclaimed first solo album Soliloqvies, released in 2020.

Day 1 

Thursday 8 May


Join one of our festival flights or trains (see 'Practicalities') or make your own way to the ship.

Amsterdam is as distinctive as it is beautiful. It grew rapidly in the 16th and 17th centuries from a small and precarious sea port to become the greatest trading emporium in Europe. With its concentric canals and close-set brick merchant houses, soaring churches and picturesque alleys, the inner city has hardly changed since its heyday.

Board the ship, MS Amadeus Cara, from 4.00pm. Afternoon tea is available. An early dinner precedes the concert.

Felix Meritis’ oval concert hall was the main music hall in Amsterdam until late into the 19th century and enjoyed a great international reputation. Many famous musicians performed there, including Robert and Clara Schumann, Saint-Saëns and Brahms. The small hall of the Concertgebouw is a replica of this concert hall, where our concert takes place.

Concert, 8.30pm:

Amsterdam, Felix Meritis Konzertsaal

Baroque virtuosity in Amsterdam

Holland Baroque, Judith & Tineke Steenbrink Artistic Directors

Amarilis Dueñas cello

Superb cellist Amarilis Dueñas joins Holland Baroque for this concert of virtuoso instrumental music of the 18th-century – the period of the hall – from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Amsterdam was a major centre of music publishing and a hub for cross-pollination among composers. Locatelli lived here, Handel visited several times, and here the works of Corelli and Vivaldi were printed and spread throughout Europe.

There is also a selection of Netherlandish popular music, defined by Etienne Roger’s Old and new Dutch peasant songs and country dances 1701–1714, and improvisations and compositions by Dueñas and Judith Steenbrink.

Overnight Amsterdam.

Day 2

Friday 9 May

Schloss Lembeck

Leave the Netherlands and enter Germany shortly after daybreak, sailing along the Lower Rhine throughout the rest of the morning. There is a lecture and lunch, but otherwise free time until early afternoon.

Moor at Wesel and drive to Schloss Lembeck near Dorsten, a delightful moated Wasserschloss (‘water castle’) situated in a park. It dates from the 17th century and retains its historic character. Our concert takes place in a small hall hung with ancestral portraits. Due to the size of the hall, the concert is repeated.

Recital, 3.15pm or 4.45pm:

Schloss Lembeck, Festsaal

Sounds familiar

Tabea Debus recorder

Alon Sariel lute

Tabea Debus and Alon Sariel delve into works that emerged from three of the most prominent musical families of the German Baroque period. The lute and recorder were especially popular in this era, and ideal for music-making in the home. JS Bach’s lute works were probably intended for the famous Dresden lutenist Sylvius Leopold Weiss. The Partita BWV 1006 is a lute transcription of the popular E major Violin Partita. Weiss and his lutenist brother Johann Sigismund were also gifted composers. On a blind taste you might mistake the Sonata and Fantasia played here for Bach.

Two generations earlier, the virtuoso violinist Heinrich Biber composed his poignant Rosary sonatas for Salzburg Cathedral. Moving forward to the mid-18th century, the Harp Sonata by JS Bach’s second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, mingles galant elegance with his own brand of waywardness.

Return to the ship in the evening and sail overnight from Wesel to Cologne.

Day 3

Saturday 10 May

Cologne, Bonn

Cologne was one of the largest and most flourishing cities in northern Europe under the Romans and during the Middle Ages, and again in the 19th century. The enormous and perfectly proportioned Gothic cathedral dominates a historic centre which possesses several major Romanesque churches and world-class museums and galleries. There is a free morning for exploration – many of the most important sights are within walking distance of the mooring.

Lunch is provided on the ship as usual, while sailing from Cologne to Bonn, with a talk on the music during the journey.

Famously disparaged as a village by the diplomatic corps when it was capital, Bonn had in fact been a significant centre of culture while seat of the Elector Archbishops of Cologne in the early modern period. In the 18th century a second-rate tenor inclined to drink, named Johann van Beethoven, was employed at the archiepiscopal court. His son was a better musician. This evening’s recital takes place in the Kammermusiksaal, a handsome modern chamber music hall attached to the Beethoven family home within walking distance of the mooring.

Recital, 8.15pm:

Bonn, Beethoven Haus, Kammermusiksaal

Brahms & Schumann sonatas

Isabelle Faust violin

Alexander Melnikov piano

Aged 57, Johannes Brahms was contemplating early retirement. Happily for us, his encounter with the clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld made him think again. Inspired by the liquid beauty of Mühlfeld’s playing he created four autumnal masterpieces for clarinet, including the two sonatas, Op. 120. Brahms published these in alternative versions for viola. With few adjustments, they also work beautifully on the violin. Schumann’s restless, impassioned late D minor Violin Sonata, with its distant echoes of Bach, makes a natural fit with the Brahms, while atmospheric miniatures by Webern and Kurtág add a dash of 20th-century astringency.

Overnight in Bonn.

Day 4

Sunday 11 May

The Rheingau

Most of the morning is spent sailing through the Middle Rhine, the most dramatically picturesque stretch of the river. See vine-clad hills with castles on many of the peaks, and charming little towns and villages at the water’s edge.  There is a talk on board before mooring at Rüdesheim after lunch.

Schloss Johannisberg is a fine classical mansion built in the early 18th century, refurbished by the Prince Metternich, Austrian Chancellor, in the early 19th century and again 1945–64 after wartime destruction.

Recital, 4.15pm

Schloss Johannisberg


Sophie Bevan soprano

Ryan Wigglesworth piano

Marriage is the theme linking the Strauss and Schumann songs that bookend Sophie Bevan’s programme. Richard Strauss presented his four songs Op. 27, including the rapt Morgen, as a gift to Pauline De Ahna on their wedding day in 1894. Writing to his fiancée Clara Wieck in May 1840, Robert Schumann euphorically described his Liederkreis on poems by Eichendorff as ‘my most romantic music ever, with much of you in it, dearest Clara’. They would marry in September that year. Between these well-loved songs Sophie Bevan and Ryan Wigglesworth perform a group of melodically appealing songs by the little-known Austrian Johanna Müller-Hermann (1868–1941), whose style lies somewhere between Brahms and Strauss.

Sail overnight to Speyer.

Day 5

Monday 12 May

Speyer, Baden-Baden

Moor at dawn in Speyer. Separated from the river by wooded parkland, the little city is dominated by the largest Romanesque cathedral in Germany, burial place of the Salian emperors. There is some free time here.

The interior of the Church of the Holy Trinity retains its early 18th-century appearance in its entirety with three tiers of galleries and an abundance of carved woodwork.

Concert, 11.00am:

Speyer, Church of the Holy Trinity

Und meine Seele spricht’ (‘And my soul speaks’)

Barocksolisten München

Dorothea Seel artistic director

Marie-Sophie Pollak soprano

Music by the two Baroque giants Bach and Handel, born within a few weeks and 150 miles of each other, form the backbone of this concert by the Barocksolisten München. Highlights include arias from Handel’s Brockes Passion – now entering the mainstream after years of neglect – and a selection of Bach arias, including the exquisite opening lullaby from Cantata 170, Vergnügte Ruh. A rousing, French-style Overture by Bach’s friend Telemann opens the programme, while a concerto and aria by the hugely successful opera composer Johann Adolf Hasse are beguiling examples of the newly fashionable galant style.

Lunch on the ship and sail to Rastatt, the next mooring point. There is a talk on the music during the journey.

An early dinner precedes the drive to Baden-Baden. One of the most prestigious spa towns in Europe, in the 19th century the rich, powerful and talented gathered here, including leading composers. Brahms stayed for several summers; his apartment is a museum.

Concert, 8.30pm:

Baden-Baden, Kurhaus

Brahms Piano Concertos

Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra

Heiko Mathias Förster conductor

Joseph Moog piano

Beloved staples of the Romantic repertoire, Brahms’s two piano concertos both have a symphonic weight and amplitude. Yet otherwise they could hardly be more different. Conceived in the wake of Robert Schumann’s final breakdown, the First Concerto mingles volcanic youthful despair with otherworldly balm. A quarter of a century later, Brahms told a friend that he had composed ‘a very small piano concerto, with a tiny wisp of a scherzo’. No one did heavy irony like Brahms. That ‘very small’ concerto, with its mix of leonine strength and lyrical charm, turned out to be the most monumental piano concerto anyone had composed up to that time.

Sail overnight to Breisach.

Day 6

Tuesday 13 May


A talk on the music takes place during morning sailing, before mooring at Breisach just before lunch. There is time to explore this attractive town which is built on a hill rising from the water’s edge. There is a fine Gothic church at its summit.

In the afternoon drive to Sankt Peter im Schwarzwald, where our concert takes place.

A Benedictine Abbey until 1806 and a seminary until 2006, the buildings of the Abbey of St Peter comprise one of the most complete and well preserved examples of a late-Baroque (architecture) and Rococo (most of the decoration) abbey complex in Catholic Germany. The Fürstensaal (Hall of Princes) was used for receptions and festivities relating to the temporal role of the abbey.

Concert, 4.15pm:

St Peter im Schwarzwald, Fürstensaal

Mozart for Kenner and Liebhaber

Consone Quartet

Kristian Bezuidenhout harpsichord

Mozart was especially pleased with the quintet and concerto performed here, both dating from his early 1780s’ heyday as composer-performer in Vienna. K415, played in Mozart’s own reduction for string quartet, is the grandest of a group of three concertos designed to appeal both to Kenner – connoisseurs – and Liebhaber – ordinary music lovers.

The concerto’s first movement also reveals Mozart’s recent immersion in the music of Handel and Bach. After a concert in which he played his fabulously inventive piano and wind quintet – heard here in an arrangement for keyboard and strings –  Mozart waxed lyrical to his father in Salzburg: ‘I consider it the best work I have ever composed’. An exaggeration? Perhaps, but not by much.

Dinner on the ship. Overnight in Breisach.

Day 7

Wednesday 14 May


The ship sails to Basel, and moors after a morning talk.

Straddling the Rhine at the uppermost point for shipping, the Swiss city abuts the borders of France and Germany. It retains much of its centuries-old streetscape and architecture, including a fine medieval cathedral, and the Kunstmuseum is Switzerland’s finest gallery of historic art. There is some free time to explore the city.

Don Bosco is a modern, almost industrial concert hall of whites and muted greys, converted from the former Roman Catholic Don Bosco Church and completed in 2020. Paul Sacher, the namesake of the main hall, was founder-conductor of the Basel Chamber Orchestra in 1926 and immensely wealthy. He commissioned works from many well-known composers, including Stravinsky, Bartók, and Richard Strauss, who features on our programme today.

Concert, 4.00pm:

Basel, Don Bosco, Paul Sacher Saal

Grand finale

Basel Chamber Orchestra

Marc Minkowski conductor

Influenced by his horn-playing father, who loathed ‘modern’ music, Wagner especially, the teenaged Richard Strauss revered Mozart above all other composers. In 1881, aged 17, he paid overt homage to his idol in his one-movement E major Serenade, modelled closely (and why not?) on Mozart’s Gran Partita for 13 wind instruments, K361.

Two years later Hans Richter conducted the triumphant Viennese première of Brahms’s Third Symphony, dubbing it the composer’s Eroica. Yet the music’s heroic aspirations are shadowed with Brahmsian musings and questionings, not least in the elegiac third movement which so moved Clara Schumann. The symphony’s unforgettable plunging opening echoes the ‘Rhenish’ Symphony of Robert Schumann, who had enthusiastically championed the 20-year-old Brahms after he visited the Schumanns in Düsseldorf.

Drinks reception and final dinner on board, overnight Basel.

Day 8

Thursday 15 May


Coach transfers depart between 9.30am and 12.00 noon. See 'Practicalities' for the flight and train options available for returning to London.


katy hamilton

Dr Katy Hamilton

Writer and broadcaster, she has provided talks for, amongst others, Wigmore Hall, BBC Proms and the Oxford Lieder Festival. A frequent contributor to BBC Radio 3, Katy’s specialism is the music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and she is the editor of Brahms in the Home and Concert Hall (2014) and Brahms in Context (2019). Katy has taught at the Royal College of Music, City Lit, and the Universities of Nottingham and Middlesex.

The festival package

The price includes:

– Eight private concerts in historic and appropriate buildings.

– Daily talks on the music.

– Accommodation on a first-class river cruiser for 7 nights.

– All meals, from dinner on the first day to breakfast on the last, with wine, and interval drinks.

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

– All tips, taxes and admission charges.

– A detailed programme booklet.

– The assistance of an experienced team of festival staff.

Accommodation & prices

The ship

Launched in 2022, the MS Amadeus Cara is 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 17.5m2 (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 ten suites (Mozart) measuring 26.4m2 with a corner sofa area and small balcony. Cabins on the lowest (Haydn) deck have smaller windows which do not 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: £3,890 per person
Single occupancy: £4,460

Strauss deck – middle

Two sharing: £4,760 per person
Single occupancy: £5,660

Mozart deck – top

Two sharing: £5,340 per person
Single occupancy: £6,290

Suites – Mozart deck

Two sharing: £6,190 per person
Not available for single occupancy

No flights/trains: if you choose not to take one of the included transport options below, there is a price reduction of £250 per person.

Train travel: if you choose to take Option 5 (train both ways, see below), there is a supplement of £150 per person.

Festival transport options

Please note that each outbound option is tied to a particular inbound option – we are unable to amend your return transport to include the outbound and inbound travel from two different options. At the time of publication, flight and train schedules had not yet been published for May 2025 so these times are indicative and subject to change.

Option 1 – flights both ways (LCY)

8 May: London City to Amsterdam (BA 8489) departing at 10.50 and arriving at 12.55. This is followed by free time for independent exploration before dinner and the evening concert.
15 May: Zurich to London City (BA 8766) departing at 14.55 and arriving at 15.30. There is time for some independent exploration of Basel before departing for London.

Option 2 – Flights both ways (LHR)

8 May: London Heathrow to Amsterdam (BA 434) departing at 11.45 and arriving at 14.05. This is followed by free time for independent exploration before dinner and the evening concert.
15 May: Basel to London Heathrow (BA 753) departing at 12.20 and arriving at 13.00.

Option 3 – Train out, flight back (LCY)

8 May: London St Pancras to Amsterdam (Eurostar) departing at 11.04 and arriving at 16.15.
15 May: Zurich to London City (BA 8766) departing at 14.55 and arriving at 15.30. There is time for some independent exploration of Basel before departing for London.

Option 4 – Train out, flight back (LHR)

8 May: London St Pancras to Amsterdam (Eurostar) departing at 11.04 and arriving at 16.15.
15 May: Basel to London Heathrow (BA 753) departing at 12.20 and arriving at 13.00.

Option 5 – Rail only

8 May: London St Pancras to Amsterdam (Eurostar) departing at 11.04 and arriving at 16.15.
15 May: Basel to London St Pancras, via Paris (one change), departing at 10.34 and arriving at 17.30.

Supplement for Option 5 (train both ways): £150 per person.

Connecting flights

It may be possible to arrange connecting flights with British Airways from Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Belfast.

Making own arrangements

You can choose not to take any of our flight/rail options and to make your own arrangements for joining and leaving the ship. You are welcome to join our coach transfers if your travel arrangements coincide with any of the options above.

Price reduction for ‘no flights/trains’: £250 per person.

Fitness for the festival

Quite a lot of walking is necessary to reach some concert venues and to get around the towns we visit. Most of the concert venues do not have a lift. You need to be averagely fit, sure-footed and able to manage everyday walking and stairclimbing without difficulty. We ask that you take these 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.

Are you fit enough to join the tour? 

More about the concerts


The duration of most of the concerts is between one and two hours; all concerts longer than 75 minutes have an interval.


Seats are not numbered – you sit where you want, or where space is left. There are pews in some churches but most seating is shaped or upholstered chairs.


All eight concerts have been set up by Martin Randall Travel exclusively for those who buy the complete package which includes accommodation, dinners, talks etc. as well as access to the concerts.

Audience size

There will be up to 140 participants on the festival. One of our venues cannot hold this number, so at this the performance will be repeated.


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.


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 Rhine, 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.

Walking the Rhine Valley

7–14 May 2025 | Lecturer: Richard Wigmore

The walking alternative mixes the concerts with country walks. Six of the concerts are included, and there are six walks of around two hours through some of the most attractive stretches of countryside close to the Rhine. Participants stay in hotels rather than on the ship. The group is limited to 22 participants. Please contact us to register your interest.

Pre- and Post-Festival tours

You can also choose to join a pre- or post-festival tour: Art in the Netherlands (2–8 May 2025) or Art in Switzerland (15–20 May 2025). Please contact us to register your interest.

Travel advice

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.'

'Superb. Introduced me to some new music and composers. The daily talks by Katy were outstanding.’

'As always the people who join the trip are a great bonus. So many interesting conversations.’

'Thoroughly enjoyable. How lovely to glide down the Rhine listening to interesting lectures, with access to gorgeous towns and music – without unpacking.'

'We enjoyed every minute. No detail left to chance. Good to find so many like-minded music-loving fellow travellers from all over the world.'

'Meals served by a genial crew to just over 100 people all at the same time are impressive, a triumph of imagination and organisation.'