domingo, agosto 11, 2013

Jeannette Arata de Erize, luminous soul of the Mozarteum

Jeannette and the Mozarteum. The Mozarteum and Jeannette. An indissoluble unity, the very heart of a vocation. Jeannette Arata de Erize is no longer with us. After 56 years at the helm of our leading concert institution, she leaves a legacy of uncompromising quality and exemplary ethics.

            "Steel wrapped in velvet" was conductor Peter Maag´s definition of his style: it is a perfect definition of the longtime President of the Mozarteum Argentino. For this tall, blond, beautiful lady was all tenacity and will blended with exquisite charm and courtesy. She brought to new heights the skill in the art of fund-raising on the one hand, and on the other, she was all business and firmness negotiating with impresarios.

            I had the honor of following her whole trajectory and observing the steady growth  of the Mozarteum; I was an admirer of the coherence and continuity of her endeavor, but also of the fine taste and intuition shown by the Mozarteum´s choice of artists and repertoire through the decades. For 47 of her 56 years of work I wrote about them; there were remarkably few misses, a legion of hits and more points of excellence than any other institution, private or public.

            Born of Spanish and French extraction, she married Francisco de Erize,  a lawyer that became her first supporter when Cirilo Grassi Díaz, legendary Director of the teatro Colón, chose her to lead the newly founded Mozarteum; "Paco", as we called him, was her financial adviser and great companion until his untimely death. She had the refined presence of Beatriz Crouzel as her main help in the initial decades, and then, the fundamental executive talent of Gisela Timermann for more than three decades up to now. They made an unbeatable team in which Jeannette coaxed and convinced artists and sponsors and Gisela managed with inexorable exactitude.

            Among so many good things that audiences owe the Mozarteum, I want to mention a virtue that is unfortunately scarce in this country: they have always been absolutely scrupulous in keeping their promises, even in moments of sore crises.  If their sponsors were stalwart it was because they believed in Jeannette, and they were right in their confidence.

            It would be impossible and tiring in this obituary to mention even a brief list of the extraordinary artists that the Mozarteum brought us, even in their initial years at the Museo de Arte Decorativo, of fond recall in my case. Just a few names: Stravinsky, Casals, Barenboim, Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic, Rostropovich, Haitink and the Concertgebouw, I Musici, Quintetto Chigiano...  

            Several other matters must be mentioned: a) the Midday Concerts have existed during 54 years giving good music for free; b) they are the only institution to have developed a network in the provinces with their filial Mozarteums; c) they have always provided scholarships to develop young talents; d) their program "Música para la Juventud" has given several generations the chance to attend great concerts for minimal prices.

            Jeannette was President until last year; at that time her son Luis Alberto was the Treasurer. This year, as his mother´s health had declined, he took over as President. We have been friends since the early Seventies; he has helped a great deal through the years and he has similar vision and musical taste as his mother. With him and Gisela the Mozarteum will not deviate from its enormous legacy. I am as sure of this as one can be sure of anything in this troubled country: they represent the values I believe in.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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