The League of American Orchestras cruises the Danube River.

Mention the Danube River to a classical music buff, and next thing you know, he’s humming Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube” and tapping his foot in three-four time.

     In 2005, the League of American Orchestras President Henry Fogel approached R. Crusoe & Son about planning a tour for League patrons. The League (formerly the American Symphony Orchestra League) is the trade organization that supports orchestras and musicians throughout the country. 

     “I have had many years of experience with R. Crusoe from their work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra patrons’ tours. I’ve always felt their work was very special. Nothing seems to throw them. They make every guest feel well taken care of. And they arrange unique, exciting itineraries with events one can’t normally experience,” says Henry.

     Member orchestras of the League are scattered throughout the United States, and Henry was looking for a way to bring its patrons together. It would be a chance to meet one another, to enjoy special musical events together, to exchange ideas, and make some lasting friendships.

     But Crusoe would also help the League in another way. Non-profit organizations such as this often turn to their development offices to create tours for members or supporters. Not a bad idea—until you consider the time and resources diverted as development staff attempt to plan a complicated tour for dozens of people. 

     Enter R. Crusoe. We stepped in to create a music-oriented journey for the League to Prague and then along the Danube through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. As with all of our itineraries—whether it be for one couple or 100 patrons—we researched special opportunities, music-related and otherwise, not available to the traveling public. We also worked to incorporate suggestions made by group members themselves as a way to further customize the tour.

     It happened that the journey coincided with Mozart’s 300th birthday. In Prague, we took League patrons on a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the historic Estates Theater, where Mozart premiered “Don Giovanni.”

     The private theater visit was “especially memorable,” recalls Henry. “At the premiere, Mozart was conducting. Being here, I think we all felt directly connected to music history. We could easily imagine what that first performance in that very space must have been like. And the music director of the theater, who personally gave us the tour, was a wealth of interesting detail.”

     At Nelahozeves Castle, we examined original musical scores penned by Mozart and Beethoven. At Strahov Monastery, a curator opened the library (closed to the public) for a private look around. 

     The River Cloud, finest boat to ply the Danube, was our moving hotel for the next seven days. Along the route, patrons heard the Vienna Philharmonic perform “Don Giovanni” with soloist Thomas Hampson at the Salzburg Festival. Some attended a performance of “A Little Night Music” and other Mozart compositions at a fortress. 

     We tasted wine in Austria’s Wachau Valley. Over coffee, we had a Q&A with Rodolphe M. Vallee, the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. We took a private tour of Budapest’s brand-new National Concert Hall personally conducted by one of its two architects, Nora Demeter. Henry calls the time with Nora “outstanding.”

     The tour ended in Budapest with a traditional barbecue. Local musicians played old folk tunes.

     A fitting end to a remarkable journey.

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