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 in the mountains 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. 9.30am from London Heathrow to Zurich (British Airways). Stop at Winterthur (Switzerland) 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. Drive through Switzerland and into Austria, arriving early evening at Mellau in the lovely upland landscape of the Bregenzerwald. Dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Morning walk to Edelweißhütte, 6 km, 2½ hours. The funicular transports us to 1400m where the morning walk begins. Gentle but persistent climbs with no shade make this a moderately strenuous route, with spectacular views. Mid-afternoon lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg. Afternoon Lieder recital with Christoph Prégardien (tenor) and Michael Gees (piano). Selected Lieder by Schumann and Schubert. Dinner in Schwarzenberg. Evening concert with Gabriel Le Magadure (violin), Raphaël Merlin (cello) and Shani Diluka (piano): Schumann, Adagio and Allegro in A flat, Op. 70; Grieg, Violin Sonata in C minor, Op. 45; Schubert, Piano trio in E flat, D 897 ‘Notturno’, Piano trio in E flat, D 929.
Morning walk from Mellau to Dösvorsäß: c. 4.5 km, c. 1½ hours. A moderate, low level walk from the hotel along the Mellen stream that later climbs to enjoy views of the surrounding mountains. Mid-afternoon lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg. Afternoon concert with Renaud Capuçon (violin) and David Fray (piano): Bach, Violin sonata in E BWV 1016, Violin sonata in C minor, BWV 1017, Violin sonata in F, BWV 1018; Beethoven, Violin Sonata in A, Op. 47. Dinner in Schwarzenberg. Evening Lieder recital with Christiane Karg (soprano), Sophie Rennert (mezzo-soprano), Mauro Peter (tenor), Andrè Schuen (baritone), Helmut Deutsch (piano) Julius Drake (piano: Selected Lieder by Brahms.
Morning walk: Barfußweg in Bizau, c.4 km, c.1½ hours. This is an easy marshland walk along a stream without any height gain. Late afternoon lecture followed by an evening concert with Renaud Capuçon (violin), Guillaume Chilemme (violin), Adrien La Marca (viola), Edgar Moreau (cello): Brahms, String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51/1, String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51/2.
Morning walk: Auer Ried, c. 6 km, c. 2½ hours. A challenging walk that begins with an ascent of about 45 minutes before continuing through deciduous forest and emerging on to high pasture for wonderful views of the Kanisfluh mountains and the Argenschlucht waterfall. Return to Mellau for lunch and a lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg. Afternoon Lieder recital with Andrè Schuen (baritone) and Daniel Heide (piano). Selected Lieder by Schubert. Dinner in Schwarzenberg. Evening concert with Till Fellner (piano): Schubert, Sonata in C minor, D 958, Sonata in A, D 959, Sonata in B-flat, D 960.
Morning panoramic walk: Baumgartner Höhe, c. 4 km, c.2½ hours. A moderate walk with inclines and terrific views. Take a funicular at the start and end of the walk. Return to Mellau for lunch and a lecture before driving to Schwarzenberg. Afternoon chamber concert with Apollon Musagète Quartet: Schubert, String Quartet No. 1, D 18, String Quartet in C, D 46, String Quartet in G, D 887. Return to Mellau for dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Free morning in Mellau. Homeward journey. Fly from Zurich arriving at London Heathrow c. 4.30pm.
Music writer, lecturer and broadcaster for BBC Radio 3. He writes for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone and has taught classes in Lieder history and interpretation at the Guildhall, Trinity College of Music and Birkbeck College. He read French and German at Cambridge and later studied Music at the Guildhall. His publications include Schubert: the complete song texts and Pocket Guide to Haydn.
Price – per person
£3,590 or £3,450 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,780 or £3,640 without flights.
Air travel (Euro Traveller) on British Airways flights (Airbus A319); private coach throughout; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 1 lunch and 5 dinners with wine; all admissions; all tips for restaurant staff, drivers, guides; all taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Tickets (top category) to 8 performances are included, costing c. £520.
Hotel Sonne, Mellau: a 4-star hotel, modern and functional with a pleasant atmosphere and very helpful staff. There is a swimming pool and restaurant. All rooms are doubles.
This is a walking tour, graded moderate. There are 5 walks, 1 easy, 3 moderate and 1 challenging. It is essential for participants to have appropriate walking footwear, be in good physical condition and to be used to country walking with uphill and downhill content and some walking at altitude. 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.
'This was one of the best holidays I have ever had!'
'Perfect! Just the right combination of music, lectures, walking, free time and good food.'