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.
The annual Schubertiade in the Vorarlberg, the westernmost province of Austria, is one of the most prestigious and enjoyable music festivals in Europe. It attracts artists of the highest calibre, while the rural setting and the predominance of Schubertian music create an endearing informality and intimacy.
But the festival’s success has not stifled a constant desire for change and experiment, as its periodic peregrinations demonstrate. Having started in the village of Hohenems, it migrated a few years later up the valley to the little town of Feldkirch, which in 2001 it abandoned in favour of mountain villages amidst the beautiful scenery of the Bregenzerwald. The hill village setting has been further refined by confining all the concerts to Schwarzenberg, described by Herder as ‘the prettiest village in Europe’.
Our tour is based in the neighbouring village of Mellau, seven miles away.
Fly at c. 12.15pm 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.
Drive down the valley to Feldkirch, a little town built at a narrowing of the valley of the River Ill, with historic buildings, arcaded streets and a network of alleys nestling beneath high limestone cliffs. A guided tour includes medieval defences, town hall and Gothic cathedral (altarpiece by Wolf Huber). Drive to Schwarzenberg for a chamber concert with Artemis Quartet: Tchaikovsky, String quartet in F, Op.22; Schubert, String quartet in D minor, D 810 ‘Death and the Maiden’. Dinner in Schwarzenberg before an evening Lieder recital with Martin Mitterrutzner (tenor) and Gerold Huber (piano); Schubert, Die schöne Müllerin.
Optional morning panoramic walk: Baumgartner Höhe, c. 4km, c.2½ hours and altitude gain is c. 200m. A moderate walk with inclines and terrific views. Take a funicular at the start and end of the walk. There is some free time in Mellau. Drive to Schwarzenberg for an afternoon piano recital with Francesco Piemontesi: Schubert, Four Impromptus, D 899, Sonata in D, D 850. Dinner in Schwarzenberg before an evening Lieder recital with Violeta Urmana (mezzo-soprano) and Helmut Deutsch (piano). Selected Lieder by Schubert, Mahler and Strauss.
Optional excursion to Hohenhems, a small town nestled under the Schlossberg ‘castle mountain’. A guided tour includes the Renaissance Palace (exterior only) and the former Jewish quarter. Some free time before returning to Mellau for an afternoon lecture. Drive to Schwarzenberg for an afternoon concert with Baiba Skride (violin), Lise Berthaud (viola), Harriet Krijgh (cello), Lauma Skride (piano): Schubert, Adagio and Rondo Concertante for piano quartet in F, D 487; Suk, piano quartet in A minor, Op.1; Brahms, piano quartet in A, Op.26. Dinner in Schwarzenberg before an evening concert with Julia Kleiter (soprano), Tara Erraught (mezzo-soprano), Pavol Breslik (tenor), Andrè Schuen (baritone) and Igor Levit (piano): Rossini, Petite messe solennelle.
Morning excursion to Bregenz, the capital of the Vorarlberg on Lake Constance. Begin in the upper town, the picturesque older part, and then continue down to the lower town for a lakeside walk and visit to the local history museum. Return to Mellau in the early afternoon in time to refresh before driving to Schwarzenberg. Afternoon chamber concert with Igor Levit (piano) and Ning Feng (violin): Schubert, Sonata in D, D 384, Sonata in A minor, D 385 ‘Erlkönig’, Allegretto in C minor, D 915, Sonata in G minor, D 408. Return to Mellau for an independent evening.
Morning lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg for a chamber concert with the Vienna Piano Trio: Beethoven, piano trio in B, Op. 97, Erzherzog-Trio; Schubert, piano trio in B, D 898. Return to Mellau for a free afternoon and dinner in the hotel. Drive to Schwarzenberg for an evening piano recital with Igor Levit: Mendelssohn, Six Lieder without words; Mahler, Adagio from Symphony No.10; Schubert, Sonata in B, D 960.
Homeward journey. Fly from Zurich arriving at London Heathrow c. 4.30pm.
Writer, lecturer and senior music producer for BBC Radio 3 for more than 25 years. He has given many radio talks and pre-concert talks at a number of venues in Britain and has lectured at universities here and in the USA. He writes programme notes, particularly for the Wigmore Hall, and CD booklets for many labels. Currently he is working on a new edition of the Beethoven piano sonatas being published by Bärenreiter.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £3,710 or £3,530 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,900 or £3,720 without flights.
Air travel (Euro Traveller) on British Airways flights (Airbus A319); private coach throughout; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 5 dinners with wine; all admissions; all tips for restaurant staff, drivers, guides; all taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Tickets (top category) to 9 performances are included, costing c. £580.
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.'