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  • The Main Hall, Concertgebouw

    © Hans Roggen via Mahler Festival

  • Willem Mengelberg, Gustav Mahler and Alphons Diepenbrock walking in Laren near Amsterdam

    © Hendrik de Booy / Stadsarchief Amsterdam via Mahler Festival

  • The Small Hall, Concertgebouw

    © Hans Roggen via Mahler Festival

  • Exterior of the Concertgebouw

    © 2017 - Hans Roggen Fotografie

  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

    © Eduardus Lee via Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Fitness / Practicalities
Tour Director

  • Take in the second half of this outstanding celebration of Mahler’s music, encompassing five symphonic concerts at the Royal Concertgebouw – including the famous ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ – performed by renowned orchestras, conductors and soloists

  • Attend daytime recitals featuring up-and-coming young artists from all over the world, curated by the celebrated English pianist and accompanist Julius Drake

  • Explore Amsterdam’s artistic and architectural treasures, from the world famous Rijksmuseum to a fascinating hidden church



    Experience the full festival programme by combining both Mahler tours - Further details

"Michael Downes was very informative and very easy to listen to"

– ACE customer on a previous tour with Michael Downes

Any performance of a Mahler symphony is a remarkable musical occasion, such are the demands that these works make in terms of the size, technical ability and musical insight of the orchestras that tackle them. The opportunity to hear a whole sequence of the symphonies played by the world’s greatest orchestras is therefore an unmissable event.


We invite you to join us as we journey to the composer’s “second musical homeland” for one of the biggest celebrations of his orchestral works and songs in the world. The return of the Amsterdam festival – which has taken place only a handful of times since its inauguration in 1920 – is particularly highly anticipated after its cancellation in 2020, and to mark the occasion we are releasing two consecutive tours which between them will cover every festival concert.

This second departure will take in Symphonies 6-9, in addition to the Adagio from the incomplete Symphony No 10. These will be performed by an eminent line-up of orchestras and conductors including Jaap van Zweden with an “impressively large” Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Klaus Mäkelä and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic (once led by Mahler himself) under both Kirill Petrenko and Daniel Barenboim. Our top category seats will allow us to appreciate the Royal Concertgebouw’s magnificent acoustics as Mahler himself once did; while the concerts will provide a glimpse into the life and development of the composer’s own musical style over time.


We begin with the two orchestral works from Mahler’s ‘middle period’. Symphony No 6, arguably written during one of the happier times in his life, is also one of his most confounding, featuring the famous ‘Mahler hammer’ in its final movement; Tour Director Michael Downes will help us to understand how it came to be and why it has provoked controversy ever since. The enigmatic Symphony No 7, meanwhile, draws us into the mystery and disquiet of a dark night which finally emerges into triumphant day; innovative and perplexing with no overriding key, it remains one of his least familiar yet most fascinating symphonies.

Symphony No 8 – colloquially termed his ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ – is, of course, particularly known for its vast scale, famously remarrying song and orchestra. Klaus Mäkelä and the Concertgebouw Orchestra will be joined by the National Radio Choir, Laurens Symfonisch, Le Chœur de l'Orchestre de Paris and the National Children's Choir for what is sure to be a truly astonishing performance. The Berlin Philharmonic will then perform Mahler’s final finished symphony, No 9, written towards the end of his life, its final movement a haunting reflection of the transition from life to death. We end with the opportunity to hear the Adagio from the unfinished Symphony No 10 alongside the orchestral song cycle Das Lied von der Erde, featuring the Berlin Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim.

Our daytimes will also be filled with the music of Mahler and other composers. The Recital Hall will welcome us for three song recitals, featuring prize-winning young artists from Turkish mezzo soprano Feride Büyükdenktas and Rising Star of the Concertgebouw Fleur Barron, to the much acclaimed French soprano Axelle Fanyo and Dutch baritone Raoul Steffani. Curating the song recitals, and joining the singers on piano, is Julius Drake, one of the world’s most respected Lieder accompanists. In a fourth recital, meanwhile, acclaimed young pianist Thomas Beijer will bring us works by Janáček, Zemlinsky and Brahms alongside the third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No 4.

As if the music were not enough, our tour will encompass visits to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum – home to works by ‘Golden Age’ greats from Rembrandt to Vermeer alongside thousands of other artistic and historical treasures – and the Van Gogh Museum. A little more off the beaten track, we will delve into Dutch history with a visit to the Our Lord in the Attic Museum, a wonderfully preserved full-size Catholic church concealed in a house during the Dutch Reformation.

We will stay throughout at the four-star NH Amsterdam Leidseplein Hotel, a classic establishment built for the 1928 Olympic Games, perfectly situated in the heart of the city.

Tickets for the main concerts will be Category 1, and tickets for the recitals Category 1+, providing the highest quality listening and viewing experience.


To book both tours, please contact the ACE office on 01223 841055. Please note that the tours will be based at different hotels.


Tour Director Michael Downes, MA, MPhil, DPhil, is a conductor, writer and lecturer. He has lectured for most of the UK’s leading opera companies and writes programme notes for organisations including Wigmore Hall and Snape Maltings. He collaborated with Nike Wagner, great-granddaughter of Richard, on the English version of her book about her family’s history; current writing projects include books about Wagner and Elgar. Following two years as Director of Music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, Michael has occupied the same post at the University of St Andrews since 2008.


Tour Director Michael Downes writes:


“The long-awaited Amsterdam Mahler Festival will be much more than the sum of its parts, since the intricate interconnections that link the symphonies can be more deeply appreciated when they are heard in quick succession. Presiding over the orchestral concerts is an extraordinary roster of conductors, ranging in age from the octogenarian Daniel Barenboim, doyen of the Romantic repertoire, to the dynamic Finnish chief conductor-designate of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Klaus Mäkelä, who will still be in his twenties at the time of the festival. Meanwhile, British pianist Julius Drake, one of the world’s most respected Lieder accompanists, curates a carefully selected series of afternoon song concerts which will help place Mahler’s symphonies in the wider context of his own music and that of his close associates – including his wife Alma. I am hugely looking forward to sharing this rich musical programme with guests from ACE Cultural Tours in a city that appreciated Mahler’s genius as a composer perhaps earlier than any other.”


Experience the full festival programme

Please note, an earlier tour will be running from May 8-14, which will take in the first half of the festival, led by Tour Director Russell Keable. Take in all ten main evening performances by combining both Mahler tours with a reduction of £400.00 per person, based on sharing a room, and £500.00 per person for single occupancy.


Information about the first tour can be found here:


First departure details


To book both tours, please contact the ACE office on 01223 841055. Please note that the tours will be based at different hotels.

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation at the NH Amsterdam Leidseplein Hotel based on sharing a standard twin or double bedded room, performances as described (5 main concerts category 1, 4 recitals category 1+), six breakfasts, one lunch (light), six dinners (one light) with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, standard double room for single use supplement £975.

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