This tour continues the highly popular format developed several years ago for The Danube Music Festival and inaugurated in 2014 for The Rhine Valley Music Festival. While most of the participants on these festivals eat and sleep on board a river cruiser, a small group stays in hotels and undertakes walks on most days through some of the most attractive stretches of the countryside in the vicinity of the river and the concert venues. Further details of the festival can be found here or in the dedicated brochure.
Fly at c. 8.30am from London Heathrow to Basel. Attend the 5.30pm concert by Sollazzo in the Kaisersaal: the programme is taken from ‘The Lost Manuscript No. 222’, an early 15th-century compilation originating in the vicinity of the Upper Rhine, probably around Strasbourg and Freiburg. Under this enigmatic title is hidden a varied collection of beautiful sacred and secular pieces with very different provenances (France, Italy and Germany). The original manuscript was burnt during the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. There is a short walk through the old town before dinner near the Münster. Overnight in Basel.
Drive to the Black Forest for a morning walk (exact length and route to be confirmed) before attending the concert at Sankt Peter im Schwarzwald with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra: their programme is bookended with Bach’s Concerto for three Violins in D (BWV 1064) and ends with Handel’s Concerto Grosso in C, ‘Alexander’s Feast’. In between are pieces by Johann David Heinichen, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Pisendel and Telemann. Continue to Speyer for the first of two nights.
Morning walk, Speyer to Mechtersheim: 9 km, c. 2 hours. Ascent: 551m. Descent 591m. This walk follows a branch of the historic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela on country lanes and paths. Free time in Speyer before driving to Schwetzingen for the afternoon concert in the Mozart Saal with the Albion Quartet: the programme explores contrapuntal composition. More usual in solemn liturgical music, composers of quartets were periodically drawn to fugal writing not only because of the compelling effect but also because a fugue was regarded as the ultimate test of compositional skill. Written late in his life (and for unspecified instrumentation), Bach’s The ‘Art of Fugue’ provides the paradigm, and two ‘contrapuncti’ are included. To this are added Haydn’s Op.20 No.2 and Schumann’s Op.41 No.1 (written beside the Rhine) and Walton’s Quartet in A minor.
Drive to Schloss Biebrich for the morning concert with Birgid Steinberger (soprano), Stephan Loges (baritone) and Roger Vignoles (piano): recital of songs connected with the Rhine by subject matter or history of composition. Composers include Brahms, Cornelius, Liszt, Loewe, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Silcher and Wolf. Afternoon walk, the Reisling route: 10 km, c. 2 hours. Ascent: 769m. Descent: 854m. A moderate walk through vineyards and on woodland paths above the Rhine, ending at Schloss Vollrads. Continue to Bad Godesberg for the night.
Morning walk from Bad Godesburg to Rolandseck: 10 km, c. 2 hours 30 minutes. A moderate walk beginning on a level path alongside the Rhine before ascending up to the hills above. There are some steep sections but always on good paths in woodland or on minor roads and country tracks. Rolandseck is a delightful building housing a contemporary sculpture museum. Continue to Cologne for some free time and the evening concert at St Mariä Himmelfahrt with The Cardinall’s Musick: this evening’s concert is a game of two halves, the first devoted to 19th-century part songs, the second to the 16th- and 17th-century a cappella. Overnight in Cologne.
A morning guided tour of Cologne’s Romanesque churches before driving to Schloss Lembeck for the concert with the Auryn Quartet (there is no country walk today): Beethoven’s String Quartet No.11 (Op.95), the ‘Serioso’, is a dense, innovatory work of which the composer stated it was not for public performance but for connoisseurs only. (He was right about his contemporaries, wrong about us.) They also perform the second of Schumann’s three quartets, following the Albion’s No.1, and also Mendelssohn’s Capriccio, one of the four quartet pieces published as Op.81. Continue to Utrecht for the first of two nights.
Morning walk, the Dutch Polder landscape: 9 km, c. 2 hours. Ascent 562m. Descent: 562m. This is an easy walk taking in the alluring landscape of the Grecht Canal towpath and the fields towards the village of Kanis. Drive to Amsterdam in the evening for the festival’s final concert at De Waalse Kerk with Amsterdam Baroque: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3 and 4, orchestrated respectively for strings only and for strings and recorders, are, like the rest of the set, as lively and dance-like as any music of the eighteenth century, but these two are also among the most graceful and affecting of Bach’s secular output. In this concert they are flanked by the third and fourth Orchestral Suites, which also have their origins in dance but are more rumbustious and triumphant, scoring including oboes, bassoon, trumpets and timpani. A fitting finale to the festival.
Morning guided tour of the Rijksmuseum before flying from Amsterdam to London Heathrow, arriving at 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
Two sharing: £2,990 or £2,830 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,370 or £3,210 without flights.
Flights (Euro Traveller) with British Airways; admittance to 7 private concerts on The Rhine Valley Music Festival; hotel accommodation as described below; travel by private coach; breakfasts, 4 lunches and 6 dinners with wine, water, coffee; admission to museums etc.; tips for waiters, drivers, guides; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Hotel Teufelhof, Basel: centrally located 3-star hotel with modern, minimalist décor. Hotel Domhof, Speyer: small, traditional 3-star hotel in an old building around a courtyard and close to the cathedral. Rhein Dreesen Hotel, Bad Godesberg: set a few metres’ back from the edge of the Rhine outside Bonn, this hotel has spacious, well-appointed rooms and excellent service. Hilton Hotel, Cologne: modern, functional 4-star hotel close to the cathedral. Hotel Karel V, Utrecht: a 5-star hotel converted from a 19th-century hospital in a quiet location within the city walls.
This is a walking tour. You must be in good physical condition and to be used to country walking with uphill and downhill content. There is not always the opportunity to return to the hotel to freshen up before every concert or dinner.
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.fco.gov.uk.
'This is our fifth Martin Randall tour and we have been satisfied with each one and particularly the quality of the lecturers.'
'Very enjoyable altogether.'