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  • Andris Nelsons conducting the Gewandhaus orchestra

    © Christian Modla via the Gewandhaus Leipzig

  • Exterior view of the Gewandhaus, Leipzig

    © Tom Thiele via Gewandhaus Leipzig

  • Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Gewandhaus Orchestra

    © Hilary Scott via Gewandhaus Leipzig

  • Shostakovich Festival 2025 poster

    © Gewandhaus Leipzig

  • Anna Rakitina

    © Julia Piven via Gewandhaus Leipzig

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Tour Director

  • Experience a rich spectrum of Shostakovich’s works including orchestral and operatic masterpieces, song cycles and string quartets

  • Explore the composer’s many influences, from folk song, poetry and satire to Soviet life, politics and war

  • Attend a staging of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, controversial in its time and highly acclaimed today

"Thanks to Richard for his leadership, expert knowledge and insight – great lectures throughout"

– ACE customer on a 2023 tour led by Richard Wigmore

We are delighted to announce that for the first time, ACE Cultural Tours will attend a festival dedicated to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). 50 years after his death, this highly anticipated event will take place amidst the outstanding acoustics of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, and will include everything from intimate chamber concerts and song cycles to large orchestral works, choral masterpieces and opera. Contributors include the Gewandhaus and Boston Symphony Orchestras, both under Andris Nelsons, for whom Shostakovich’s music has been hugely impactful. 


We will also hear from award-winning Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and the much admired Quatuor Danel, whose close relationship with Irina Antonovna Shostakovich has laid the groundwork for their exceptional interpretations of the composer’s quartets. Our programme begins with a selection of these works – including the moving Quartet No 8 in C minor – performed in the Gewandhaus’s Mendelssohn Hall, where the quartet recently recorded all fifteen quartets for international release. 


Shostakovich famously grappled with the political and international circumstances of his time, much of which was powerfully conveyed in his music. Here we will see a combined Festival Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra play Symphony No 7 ‘Leningrad’, which was performed under terrible conditions in the besieged city in 1942, as well as in New York in the same year. Meanwhile Symphony No 13 – sometimes known as ‘Babi Yar’ – is a musical setting of five Yevgeny Yevtushenko poems describing episodes from Soviet life, including the suffering of Jewish people. Yuvtushenko commented that Shostakovich “made the poem greater, more meaningful and powerful. In a word, it became a much better poem.” Jewish music features frequently in the composer’s work, and we will also hear the song cycle ‘From Jewish Folk Poetry’ during our tour, as well as works built on other poetic influences including the six romances on texts by Japanese poets.


Cutting satire, caricature and wit played a key role in the composer’s creativity, and we will encounter this in works including Satires (Pictures of the Past) and Antiformalist Rayok – not publicly performed until 14 years after his death – a cantata for four voices composed in response to the cultural doctrine in Russia in the 1940s.  


Further orchestral highlights await on our penultimate morning, when conductors Andris Nelsons and Anna Rakitina will bring us Symphonies 1-3 – the first of which made Shostakovich’s name as an international composer at the age of 19, full of the wit and playfulness but also drama and depth that would characterise so much of his music.


Our tour builds to its final performance: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Based on the novel of the same name by Nikolai Leskov – and the subject of disapprobation and censorship by the Soviet Union after its release – the opera is described by New York’s Metropolitan Opera as “one of the undisputed musical masterpieces of the last 100 years”. Satirical, thrilling and horrifying in equal measure, the story continues to resonate with audiences today, propelled by a remarkable score that in the words of The Guardian is “pungent, salty, sinewy and multi-layered, dense with ironic references to popular and folk tunes”. 


Our Tour Director will introduce each performance, seeking to uncover the subtleties of Shostakovich’s output and its intersection with the many dimensions of his life; not only the political climate, but also the myriad other interests that inspired him, from composing greats Mussorgsky and Stravinsky (whose Symphony of Psalms is also performed here) to popular song.    


Delving into Leipzig’s wider musical heritage, our tour weaves a carefully selected programme of cultural visits around the performances, both in and within striking distance of Leipzig. Daytime visits will include the Schumann House Museum, Mendelssohn House Museum and Bach Archive, as well as an excursion to the equally celebrated city of Dresden. Our final morning will include a special private opening of Köthen Castle en route to the airport, subject to final flight arrangements.  


We will stay throughout the tour in the centre of Leipzig at the Seaside Park Hotel, a four-star Art Deco residence situated within easy walking distance of the Gewandhaus. 


This tour will be led by Richard Wigmore, MA, AGSM, a writer, broadcaster, lecturer and former professional singer. Richard’s specialisms cover everything from Viennese Classics to Lieder and Opera. He writes for Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine and other journals, and has lectured at Birkbeck College, the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music. Richard’s publications include Schubert: The Complete Song Texts and the Faber Pocket Guide to Haydn. He has written about and delivered many lectures on Shostakovich and his music, and is looking forward to exploring the composer’s life and works on this exciting new tour.


Tour Director Richard Wigmore writes:


“The Leipzig Shostakovich Festival offers the enticing prospect of an in-depth immersion in the music of one of the 20th century's most popular and most controversial composers. His opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – first lauded, then banned by Stalin – is an obvious highlight. Others are a programme of string quartets – including the moving, autobiographical No 8 – by the brilliant young Quatuor Danel, and rare chance to hear Shostakovich's first three symphonies in a single concert.”

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, performances as described (category 1), seven breakfasts, seven dinners (five light) with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, small double room for single use supplement £315.

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