We make our own way to London Gatwick Airport for our direct scheduled Easyjet flight to Berlin. Speedy Boarding has been arranged in order to streamline the journey for everyone. On arrival at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, we are met by Peter Medhurst, our music lecturer, and Thomas Abbott, our art historian, and transfer by coach to Weimar. En route, we enjoy the first of our lunches together and then continue on to check in to the Grand Hotel Russischer Hof, a superb 4* hotel which opened its doors for the first time in 1805. The hotel is next to the theatre of Weimar and is situated in the historical centre of Weimar. We stay here for three nights. In the evening we have a private drinks reception followed by dinner at the hotel with wine included.
It was at the Weimar Court that JS Bach spent the first third of his career (1708-18) and our lecture this morning introduces the events of this important part of Bach’s life. Afterwards, we go on a guided walking tour of Weimar, during which we visit the Herder Church – where Peter will play the organ – and then visit the Wittumspalais, the city residence of Duchess Anna Amalia, a great lover of music and a composer. A light lunch is included and followed in the afternoon with a visit to Franz Liszt’s House in Marienstraße. The pianistcomposer Liszt was a Bach enthusiast and not only performed Bach’s keyboard pieces in his concerts, but made numerous transcriptions of Bach’s music for the piano. Time permitting we will finish the day with a visit to the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek within the Rococo Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage since 1998. All of today’s visits are on foot as they are within walking distance of the hotel. This evening is at leisure.
Prior to his musical appointment at the Weimar Court, Bach spent his formative years in Eisenach, and held organist posts at nearby Mühlhausen and Arnstadt. These places are on our agenda today. So, after breakfast we make our way to Arnstadt for a brief visit to the church after which we travel by coach to Eisenach (where Bach was born in 1685) to visit the Bach Museum. There will be plenty of time to explore and enjoy this magnificent testament to Bach’s life. We follow this with lunch at the Wartburg Castle restaurant at the Romantik Hotel. In the afternoon we make our way by coach to Mühlhausen for a walk around the old town and a visit to St Blasius (Bach’s church) where Peter will play the organ. On our return to Weimar the evening will be at leisure.
Today we leave Weimar for Leipzig and, subject to opening, we plan to visit the Heinrich Schütz Museum in Weissenfels (Schütz is regarded as the most important German composer before Bach). We then make our way to Naumburg. Following a guided tour of St Wenzel’s Church in Naumburg, the resident organist will give a recital on the 52 stop organ built by Zacharias Hildebrand in 1746. Bach helped to design the instrument. After an included light lunch, we continue on foot to Naumburg Cathedral for a guided tour of this renowned landmark of the German late Romanesque. We then continue on to Leipzig and check in for a three night stay at the 5* Steigenberger Grand Hotel, which is just a moment’s walk from St Nicholas’ Church where Bach gave the premiere of his St John Passion. After checking in to the hotel there will be some free time to do a little exploring of the city. Before our included dinner this evening, we re-convene for a lecture on Bach and his Leipzig period (1723-50).
After a morning lecture on Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, we travel by coach to Köthen and visit the Palace where Bach spent the middle period of his working life (1716-23) and where he wrote the concertos that we studied this morning. We then travel to Wörlitz and after an included lunch, we visit the famous palace and gardens. Wörlitz Palace, finished in 1773, was the residence of Duke Leopold and his wife Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt, and was the first Neoclassical building in present-day Germany. We return to Leipzig, but with time permitting, we visit the Grassi Museum containing an excellent musical instrument collection. The evening is at leisure.
This morning’s lecture examines some of the highlights of Bach’s church cantatas. The rest of the day is spent in Leipzig. We start with a visit to the Bach Museum in Thomaskirchhof and take a tour of the adjacent St Thomas’s Church where Bach spent the last 27 years of his life as director of the choir. We follow this with an included lunch and then go on a walk through Leipzig’s historic centre, visiting the Mendelssohn House (Felix Mendelssohn was another Bach enthusiast, and in 1829 organised the first modern performance of the St Matthew Passion) and the Robert Schumann apartments (subject to opening). Schumann – along with Liszt – was a founder of the Bach-Gesellschaft in 1850, who furthered his fascination for Bach by performing and making arrangements of Bach’s music. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel.
After checking out of the Steigenberger Grand Hotel, we travel back to Berlin for our flight home. En route we will travel to Halle to visit the museum and musical instrument collection dedicated to the life of Handel – JS Bach’s exact contemporary. We then make our way to Halle Cathedral where GF Handel – and Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach – played the organ, and where Peter will give the last of his organ recitals. We also enjoy a final included lunch together, after which we continue to Schönefeld Airport in good time for our early evening flight back to London Gatwick.
Tour limited to 24 passengers
Lectures by Peter Medhurst on Days 2, 4, 5 & 6
Thomas Abbott - professional tour manager & art historian
4 private organ recitals
All excursions, entrance fees, guided tours & gratuities for hotel & restaurant staff included
4* & 5* hotels in Weimar & Leipzig
Lunch included every day
Three dinners included
Direct scheduled flights from London Gatwick to Berlin
Executive coach in Germany
Audio headsets included on Days 2 to 6
Guided walking tour of Weimar & the Herder Church
Franz Liszt’s House
Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek
Eisenach & the Bach Museum
Wartburg Castle restaurant
Mühlhausen & St Blasius (Bach’s church)
Heinrich Schütz Museum, Weissenfels
St Wenzel’s Church, Naumburg - guided tour & organ recital
Naumburg Cathedral - guided tour
Wörlitz Palace & Gardens
Bach Museum in Thomaskirchhof
St Thomas’s Church
Mendelssohn House & the Robert Schumann apartments
Halle museum & musical instrument collection
Three nights at the 4* Grand Hotel Russischer Hof in Weimar (www.russischerhof.com), wonderfully located in the heart of historical Weimar, and another three nights at the 5* Steigenberger Grand Hotel in Leipzig (www.steigenberger.com), just a moment’s walk from St Nicholas’ Church. Facilities at both hotels include a restaurant and bar and all rooms are en suite and feature a television and a mini bar.
Single room supplement £299
Local accommodation tax to be paid directly to the hotel (approximately €3.50 per person per night)
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