The combination of music-making of the highest quality with a pre-Alpine mountain setting is a heady mix. Devotees of the Schubertiade return year after year; addiction is a distinct possibility. Add guided walks and visits in the surrounding area and top up with relaxation among ravishing upland scenery and this begins to sound like the recipe for the perfect holiday for music lovers.
It takes place in the Vorarlberg, the westernmost province of Austria, with all the concerts in the village of Schwarzenberg, described by the philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder as ‘the prettiest village in Europe’. Our tour is based in the neighbouring village of Mellau, seven miles away.
Fly at c. 12 noon from London Heathrow to Zurich (British Airways). Drive through Switzerland and into Austria, arriving early evening at Mellau in the lovely upland landscape of the Bregenzerwald. All six nights are spent in this very attractive village.
Morning lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg for an all-Schubert piano recital with Elisabeth Leonskaja: Drei Klavierstücke, D 946; Sonata in A minor, D 784; Sonata in D, D 850 ‘Gasteiner’. Return to Mellau for lunch and some free time. Afternoon Lieder recital with Andrè Schuen (baritone) and Daniel Heide (piano): Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin. Dinner in Schwarzenberg before an evening concert with the Minetti Quartet and Lars Anders Tomter (viola): Mozart: String quintet in G minor, K 516; Schubert: String quartet in A minor, D 804 ‘Rosamunde’.
Optional excursion with a guided tour in the small town of Hohenhems, original location of the Schubertiade. Some free time here before returning to Mellau for an afternoon lecture. Drive to Schwarzenberg for an afternoon piano recital with Marc-André Hamelin: Schubert: Andantino from ‘Divertissement sur des motifs originaux français’, D 823; Sonata in A minor, D 845; Fauré: Nocturnes op. 33/1 und 2; Barcarolle, op. 70; Debussy: Préludes (selection). Dinner in Schwarzenberg before an evening Lieder recital with Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Oliver Darbellay (horn) and Michael Gees (piano): selected Lieder by Schubert, Britten and others.
Optional hill walking on the Baumgartner Höhe, 4km, 2½ hours, altitude gain 200m, a moderate walk with inclines and terrific views and starting and ending with a funicular ride. Free afternoon. Drive to Schwarzenberg for an evening song recital with Katharina Konradi (soprano), Julia Kleiter (soprano), Sophie Rennert (mezzo-soprano), Tara Erraught (mezzo-soprano) and Wolfgang Rieger (piano): Songs for female voices by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.
Morning excursion to Bregenz, the regional capital located beside Lake Constance. Begin in the upper town, the picturesque older part, and walk down to the lake and visit the local history museum. Return to Mellau in the early afternoon for a lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg. Afternoon chamber concert with Renaud Capuçon, Guillaume Chilemme (violin), Adrien La Marca (viola) Gérard Caussé (viola), Edgar Moreau (cello): Schubert: String quartet in D minor, D 810 ‘Death and the Maiden’; Bruckner: String quintet in F. Dinner before an evening Lieder recital with Andrè Schuen (baritone) and Daniel Heide (piano): Schubert, ‘Winterreise’.
Free morning in Mellau before driving to Schwarzenberg for a Lieder recital with Sophie Rennert (mezzo-soprano), Joseph Middleton (piano): Lieder by Schubert and Mahler. Dinner in Schwarzenberg before a concert with Renaud Capuçon (violin), Victor Julien-Laferrière (cello) and David Fray (piano): Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata in A minor, D 821; Violin sonata in A, D 574; Piano trio in B-flat, D 898.
Homeward journey. Stop at Winterthur to see the Old Master and Impressionist paintings of the Oskar Reinhart Collection, beautifully displayed in the collector’s home in woods outside the city. Fly from Zurich, arriving at London Heathrow c. 5.00pm.
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: £3,830 or £3,670 without flights. Single occupancy: £4,040 or £3,880 without flights.
Private coach throughout; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 6 dinners with wine; all admissions; all tips for restaurant staff, drivers, guides; all taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Tickets (top category) to 10 performances are included. Tickets are confirmed in September 2020.
Hotel Sonne, Mellau: a 4-star hotel, modern and functional with a pleasant atmosphere and very helpful staff. All rooms are doubles. There is a swimming pool and restaurant. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
There is some walking through towns and over uneven ground. The optional walk is rated moderate and participants wishing to take part should bring appropriate walking footwear. Average distance by coach per day: 55 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'The lecturer is blessed with the magical blend of musical knowledge and sociability.'
'The music was of the very highest quality – excellent seats in the concert hall.'
'A truly wonderful holiday…I think it was worth every penny!'
'We had a thoroughly enjoyable experience, which managed to successfully combine significant musical and intellectual stimulation with a relaxing and very pleasurable holiday in a lovely location.'