We are saddened by the death of Hans Landesmann, a man who did more than most to rid classical music of corruption. He was 81.
Vienna born, Hans was hidden in Hungary during the Holocaust. After the War, he grew the family agri-business in Austria and lived a parallel life as a music organiser. In the late 1970s, he took charge of the Vienna Concerts Society, then of the Konzerthaus. He planned Claudio Abbado’s 1984 Mahler and the 20th century cycle and, with him, founded the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra.
In January 1989 Hans was appointed to the board of directors of the Salzburg Festival. When Herbert von Karajan died six months later, he stepped up as its commercial director – a white knight who aimed to rid the festival of decades of insider deals, nepotism and somambulism.
It was through Hans’s efforts and recommendation that the Beglian radical Gerard Mortier was appointed artistic director. Together, they rejuvenated the Salzburg programming and engaged with the modern era. Hans took charge of the concerts side. He also restored the festival’s finances with major consumer corporate sponsorship, reducing the role of the music business in Salzburg’s programming. In a time of great turbulence, he was unfailingly polite.
But the ruling pair soon fell out. Hans accused Gerard of double-dealing and, in 2001, left Salzburg embittered. He remained engaged with music, but never in a high profile. When I ran into him in recent years, he wore an air of defeat. In Salzburg, his name is hardly mentioned.
Hans was a decent man, a Mensch, and his legacy is a cleaner music world. We shall miss him.
with Alfred Brendel