(Vienna, 14 March, 2022) It is with extreme sadness that the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester learned of the passing away of Dr Erhard Busek, president of the GMJO between 1996 and 2020, in Vienna yesterday.
The former vice-chancellor and federal minister for education and science of the Republic of Austria and vice mayor of the city of Vienna was the second president of the GMJO after Prof. Hans Landesmann.
He was a fierce supporter of the democratic movements in many Eastern European countries before the fall of the Iron Curtain and a personal friend of many dissidents, politicians, and artists, from Václav Havel to Karel Schwarzenberg, from Arpad Göncz to Lojze Peterle, and numerous others.
The contacts he had – and actively used for his vision of a united and peaceful Europe -, the high reputation he enjoyed all over the world, and the very concrete initiatives he founded are legendary. He was a true European, building bridges and connecting people, with a never-ending energy and passion.
His true European spirit and dedication was an inspiration for all that had the privilege to work for him. As a federal minister of the Republic of Austria, he established a scholarship programme for musicians of the GMJO from CEE countries.
Special GMJO concerts and projects like the concert in Sarajewo (1997), the regular GMJO concerts in cities like Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Zagreb, and many other cities, would have been unthinkable without his door-opening and active support.
He regularly visited, until very recently, many GMJO concerts and often addressed the musicians of the GMJO after concerts whom he regarded as true ambassadors of a better Europe, as did GMJO founder Claudio Abbado.
His legacy will remain and live on, and the GMJO will continue to fulfil its role as a unifying project.
Our thoughts are with his wife and with his family, and with the many people who worked closely with him over many years.