Obituary: Walter Maas

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The Independent Online
Walter Alfred Friedrich Maas, patron of the arts, born Mainz Germany 18 July 1909, died Bilthoven Holland 1 December 1992.

WALTER MAAS was the founder and former Director of the International Gaudeamus Foundation in Holland dedicated to the promotion of contemporary music.

Maas was born in 1909 into a Jewish family in Mainz, Germany, and emigrated to Holland in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution. Many members of his family perished in concentration camps, including his parents. Like Anne Frank, he lived in hiding from the Nazi invaders for over three years, secreted in the eves of his family's house, in Biltholm, by Dutch friends.

Out of gratitude to the Dutch he created the Gaudeamus Foundation, in the same house, to promote young Dutch composers. In the post-war years the house was run for much of the year as a hotel and the foundation also held annual composers' seminars. Its work was partially financed by compensation pay ments made by Germany after the war, and by money earned from the hotel business. After the first Gaudeamus Music Week in 1947 the foundation adopted an international scale and became a centre for international understanding and exchange. Many now well-known composers became associated with the yearly events Gaudeamus organised, including Matyas Seiber, Edgar Varese, Bruno Maderna, Olivier Messiaen, Ernst Krenek, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Krystof Penderecki, Witold Lutoslawski, Luigi Nono, Luciano Berio, Gyorgy Ligeti, Hans Werner Henze, Iannis Xenakis, Peter Schat, Louis Andriessen, and, from Britain, Michael Finnissy, Brian Ferneyhough, Harrison Birtwistle, David Bedford and Nigel Osborne.

Besides the International Composers' Workshops and the International Music Week Maas also initiated the formation of the Gaudeamus String Quartet, which for many years was the world's leading quartet for contemporary music; the Studio for Electronic Music in Utrecht, under Jaap Vink and Gottfried Michael Koenig, now moved to The Hague; the International Gaudeamus Interpreters' Competition and the Critics' Seminar, organised jointly under the auspices of the music section of Unesco and 'Travelling Concerts' which took contemporary music around Holland, Belgium, France and Germany.

Maas was an Honorary Life Member of the International Society for Contemporary Music and is the third such member, along with Messiaen and Cage, to have died in the last year. He was a phenomenal organiser, generous and untiring in his efforts to help individual composers in financial need. He was awarded prizes and honours including Officer of the Order Oranje-Nassau, the Deutsches Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse, the Jan van Gilse Prize, the Peter Cornelius Medal from the City of Mainz, Membership of the Swedish Academy and Honorary Citizenship of the City of Mainz and the coveted Gutenberg Medal. He was adviser to the Dutch section of the ISCM, the Gaudeamus Foundation after his retirement as General Director in 1981, to Donemus Publishers, the Rotterdam Arts Foundation, Opera Mundi, the Dutch National Ballet as well as being a member of the German Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft. He could be seen at most international contemporary music festivals all over the world attending almost all ISCM festivals since the war. His warmth, wit and generosity will be much missed on the world's contemporary music scene.

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