Musical Magic Along the Blue Danube (Con't)

Concert notes for Musical Magic Along the Blue Danube
As part of the Pest side visit, we toured the Vigadó Concert Hall and were given a concert upstairs with solo cellist accompanied by piano, playing two compositions by Béla Bartók.
The next morning there was a tour of the Budapest Opera House, which is magnificent. We could sit in the auditorium while the orchestra warmed up. When the actual rehearsal begun, we had to exit but continued the tour. From the emperor’s box doors, we could hear the orchestra start up Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre and the soprano sing “Ho jo to ho!” In the grand staircase a pair of music students performed opera excerpts for us while the tour guest stood in the upper portion, the students singing Musetta's Waltz “Quando me'n vo'” from La Bohème with a pre-recorded orchestra, plus an excerpt from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, and conclude with a duet from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.
Budapest (Day 2)
Evening Two Concert (rescheduled to daytime due to the water levels to facilitate transportation) at the Institute for Musicology, Budapest, which was a performance by the Kodály String Quartet (Attila Falvay, Ferenc Bangó, János Fejérvári, György Éder) and Professor Csaba Kiraly, piano, with introductions by musicologist Laszlo Gombos.
• Piano Quintet in E-flat major, 1st rnv’t Robert Schumann
• String Quartet in D major, Op.2O/4, 3rd mov’t: Allegretto alla zingarese Joseph Haydn
• Liebesträume Franz Liszt
• First Hungarian Dance, for string quartet Márk Rózsavölgyi
• Piano Trio 25 in G major, 3d mov’t: “Rondo in the Gypsies’ Style” (all’ongarese) Joseph Haydn
• Rhapsody no. 13, for solo piano Franz Liszt
• String Quartet in F major (“American”), 4th mov’t Antonin Dvořák
• Piano Quintet in C minor, 1st mov’t Ernst von Dohnányi
We were given a tour of the Bratislava Opera House, a newer building than the one in Budapest, Vienna, or Prague. In the lesser hall the guide, a tenor, later joined by an alto in duet, sang some Slovakian folk songs and compositions by Slavic composers such as Dvořák and Janáček. We then toured the great hall but there was no music performance there.
In the afternoon we attended a small concert performed by child prodigies who I must admit were exceptional, in particular a young cellist performed Saint-Saëns’ The Swan accompanied by piano, and also one movement from one of Haydn’s cello concertos.
In the evening back on the ship after dinner we gathered in the lounge to hear a local group Jana and the Boys perform jazz from the 20s, 30s, and 40s which included some Gershwin. They were high energy entertainment.

We passed on the orchestra rehearsal (it wasn’t the Vienna Philharmonic, nor the State Opera Orchestra) in favor of getting some rest.
Tauck obtained great seats for the Vienna State Opera, we were in row 9 near the center. The orchestra and singers were WONDERFUL, this was indeed the highlight of the trip.
Images of the singers in the stage setting can be viewed at Il trittico: All dates & official ticket shop (wiener-staatsoper.at) (www.wiener-staatsoper.at/en/season-tickets/detail/event/992407557-il-trittico/).
Between courses of the dinner at the Palais Ferstel in Vienna there were instrumental performances of various Viennese composers, and also singers and dancers accompanied by the live music. The first was Papageno’s entrance aria "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja" from The Magic Flute, later joined by Papagena in duet. There were also songs from Don Giovanni including the duet “La ci darem la mano.” Several songs from The Sound of Music were crowd pleasers, and also some from German operetta. As you might expect the evening concluded with The Blue Danube.

Melk & Grein
There was no musical component to our stop in Melk. In the afternoon the ship continued on to Grein and Maestro Fusco gave a lecture titled “Amadeus: Fact and Fiction” which went through Mozart’s life and compared it to the Amadeus movie. After the scene in which Mozart, as a penalty at a party is suspended upside down and plays the piano behind his head, Raphael stated that this is a fun party trick and really not the hard. So, at the end of the lecture an audience member asked him to show us how to play the keyboard backwards-- Raphael turned around, tilted his body back towards the piano, and played it! After dinner there was a tour with a 9:00pm start time to walk (in the rain) to see a small local old music hall in Grein with a performance by local musicians. We also passed on this event to instead rest up for the next day’s 8:00am coach bus departure for Salzburg.

In Salzburg we toured the town including the Mozart House, then walked across the river to the Universität Mozarteum and heard a concert performed in a small hall on campus by one of the professors and three of his graduate students: one piano student, a baritone, and a soprano. They played a Mozart piano for four hands piece, and selections from Schubert’s Winterreise, and several other songs.
In the evening, a local group “Trio 3Klang” performed on board after dinner. This consisted of a female vocalist, a keyboard player, and a string bass, but I cannot recall what they performed other that it was enjoyable.
The noon time cathedral organ concert was quite nice. However, in Oct 2023 there was ongoing renovation of the organ, with many of the pipes missing and a lot of scaffolding in the back half of the cathedral which did alter the sound. After the concert we saw a truck parked outside and workmen loading the square wooden pipes, some of them long enough and heavy enough to require two men to carry. The program that day is pasted below. The piece by Widor that the concluded the concert was particularly well performed.

In Prague we toured the Estates Theatre (Stavovské divadlo) which opened in 1783, and were told that this is the only remaining opera house where Mozart conducted. He is known to have conducted The Marriage of Figaro here, and he conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni here in 1787. We were also told that when Don Giovanni is performed in Prague in modern times they use the Prague shorter ending rather than the somewhat expanded later version. We heard an instrumental performance in the foyer by a wind quintet up on the balcony, doing arrangements of some of Mozart’s operatic hits.

Prague (Day 2)
At the Dvořák House Maestro Fusco gave a piano recital of classical and jazz music. He performed one of his one compositions, “Remixes on a Theme by Händel” which took that theme and recast it as Minimalism, Pop, Polytonality, Jazz, Romanticism, Gospel, and a four voice fugue. (His CD Remixed is available on Amazon). Finally he asked the audience to shout out various numbers from one through eight, getting 7, 8, 5, 6, 2, 1. He then asked for a color and got blue. He then said that he had a bit of synesthesia and to him F major seemed to be blue. He then used the note sequence (“Hey, that’s kind of nice!”) to compose impromptu, which was a lot of fun watch happen.
The Gala Farewell Dinner was at the Nelahozeves Castle featuring the guest choir and strolling musicians. Regretfully we had an extremely early flight back to the States and did not attend, but reportedly it was lovely.


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    I have waited and waited for a forum member to report on this tour which I hope to take in 2025 with a talented flautist who has aspirations of attending Juilliard in Manhattan. She will be thrilled when I share some of your comments. Thank you for such a comprehensive review and one that is so beautifully written. I am so enthralled that I can't even think of a question right now!

    Thank you!

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    Thank you SO much for this review! We are booked the end of May for this tour to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I myself am a musician ( opera and musical theater) and my husband is an enthusiastic fan of classical music, so we are both looking forward to this tour. About 15 years ago I went on a land tour of all these places except Grein and Melk that was all based on opera performances, so it will be great to go back to some of these lovely places. Also excited by your comments about the onboard Maestro!

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    Marla526 - You could be a distinguished guest at one of the performances!

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    You mentioned one off-ship evening performance that started at 2100. If you can recall, what were the other start times for evening performances? I do not wish to miss any performance but am concerned about late evenings with early start times the next morning.

    Thanks in advance.

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    Thank you for your comprehensive review. I love music and had always wondered about the details of this cruise, now I know. Sounds wonderful.

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    Thank you all for your kind comments.

    The evening event in Grein was the latest start time for an evening performance.

    The opera night in Vienna was at 7:30 pm. We had an early buffet dinner aboard the ship and departed right after on the bus. Tauck thoughtfully provided an additional return bus at one of the intermissions for those who wanted to return early.

    The other evening gala event in Vienna was over dinner, so that wasn't a late evening.

    I can't comment about the second evening concert time in Budapest since it was moved to the afternoon to reduce the number of bus trips between Budapest and the ship's location in Slovakia due to the water levels.

    The last night event at the castle was a 45-60 minute drive from the hotel and the bus didn't return until after 11 PM. Several of us had pick up times between 4 and 6 AM for our transfer to the airport. Another day in Prague would have been lovely!!!

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    Thank you for answering my questions. Two more and I'll stop being a pest. What were the names of your Tauck directors and did you have some regional food while on the boat?

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    No worries about the questions - we've appreciated the information on this forum over the years and are glad to share!

    As for the regional food - yes, we usually had at least one featured regional selection each night for dinner in addition to a range of other choices. There was no shortage of strudel on this trip!! During a couple of the tour days, we had free time for lunch and the TDs gave us 20 Euro's ("lunch on Arthur") to cover this cost. The suggestions for "dinners on your own" in the information provided by the TD's were very helpful and provided another opportunity to sample regional cuisine.

    The tour directors were Krisztina, Vladislav, Bara
    Cruise Director: Gernot

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    Thank you again! Please post more reviews as you can. You offer such insightful and well written commentaries. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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    Wonderful report CruiserBob

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