As far as historic Alpine hotels go, few are more storied than the 630-year-old Arlberg Hospiz Hotel, located in the tiny, picturesque town of St Christoph, in Tyrol, Austria. Its humble origins date back to 1386, when a local pig farmer built a life-saving refuge for travellers crossing the perilous Arlberg massif – and since then the “hospice in the Arlberg” has held status as the area’s cradle of Alpine skiing and, in more recent times, as a premier destination for European royalty and industrial families. Each owner has put its unique stamp on the property, and for the past three generations that custodian has been the Werner family – who are now taking this legendary retreat into its next, and perhaps most exciting, chapter.
At the beginning of October they will unveil a new €26m cultural centre that – at 1,800m above sea level – is being billed as the world’s highest-altitude art and concert hall. Hosting exhibitions, concerts, masterclasses and lectures, the new space will bring together both new and established artists and composers. Officially inaugurating the Arlberg1800, as it is being called, is a week-long cultural extravaganza, from Sunday October 4, of events, concerts and culinary experiences, for which individual tickets are now on sale, from €30. The space itself will also be an exhilarating visual treat, thanks to the über-contemporary vision of Tyrolean architect Jürgen Kitzmüller – think streamlined curves, undulating wood cladding (first picture) and cool concrete (third picture).
For the opening week, among the maiden performers gracing Kitzmüller’s new 193-capacity concert hall are the 25-year-old New York pianist Claire Huangci, who played at the White House at the age of 10, and 15-year-old violinist Sophie Wang, accompanied by pianist Jeanne Mikitka. Also in the line-up are guitarist Dimitri Lavrentiev, rising star cellist Julian Bachmann with Moye Kolodin on the piano, and the C-Jazz-Ensemble – headed by pianist and composer Peter Vogel.
But it’s Saturday October 10’s Long Night of Music that will certainly be the highlight. Spanning four centuries of music, from classical to jazz, the evening promises appearances by Zurich’s Amar Quartett and jazz singer Alexandrina Simeon, with the interludes topped off by award-winning Austrian fare and fine wines. The Hospiz’s centuries-old cellar is home to a world-famous collection of bordeaux and burgundy, and it won’t be an affair to miss. Ditto similar themed celebrations that are planned before the skiing officially kicks off, such as October’s Vive la France culinary and artistic programme, and November’s Viennese tribute featuring works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven – with cuisine to match.
Also worth discovering is the new 600sq m White Space, a concrete-clad exhibition hall that will host biannual curated shows. In addition to an art lounge and project room for smaller exhibitions, there are two studios, which continue the art-patronage tradition and artist-in-residence programme that the Werners and hotel have hosted since 2008 (more than 130 artists have benefited to date). Both the exhibition space and concert hall are located underground, while above in two country houses are 17 apartment suites (opening in June 2016) with panoramic mountain views.
Along with world-class skiing, the local area has some 300km of hiking and mountain-biking trails, plus rafting, canyoning and swimming. Stunning landscapes, authentic Austrian hospitality and now, literally, high art and culture – this is an Alpine destination that will offer as much when temperatures fall as when they rise.
For more musical enchantment, discover the meticulously researched recordings of long-forgotten masterpieces that are delighting connoisseurs of bel canto – or why not vary your music collection by adding original scores by great composers to your display?