In Memoriam: Alejandro Szterenfeld, 1922–2004

Alejandro Szterenfeld, long-time South American impresario
for the Nikolais Dance Theatre, died on June 10, 2004.

Alejandro Szterenfeld
On December 23, 2004, Beth Bagnold wrote us about
the death in June of Alejandro Szterenfeld:

I seem to be behind in keeping up with our friends, but since I hadn’t heard from anyone else, I thought I would pass this sad news on to you. Yesterday I got a call from Alejandro Szterenfeld’s secretary, Hilda, to let me know that Alex had died on June 10th (he was 81 or 82 — 1922–2004). Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful pulling up any of the obits published (of course in Spanish), so I have nothing to attach here.

Most of us got to see him every year in January when he came to New York for the booking show (always staying at the Warwick Hotel), but he stopped coming after 2000, which is when I saw him last. Amazingly, he had stopped smoking—a man who went nowhere without his cigarettes—and looked very well. I do not know what the cause of death was.

Personally, he was a very dear and loyal friend. During the years that he booked Nik’s company, he worked incredibly hard to make everything go as smoothly as possible. He was often on the air field to oversee cargo handling of our tons of show gear!

I know that he will be missed. His office is still operating and his name is still used—I don’t think any of us realized how well known he was in the world of impresarios. I will miss my dear friend.

— Beth  

The following news obituaries have subsequently been found:

Farewell to Szterenfeld Empresario Único

Despedida a Szterenfeld: Empresario único

By Federico Monjeau
Clarín Espectáculos, July 1, 2004
English translation by Tito del Saz

The body of Alexander Szterenfeld was put to rest on Saturday morning by his friends from all over the world. His ashes were scattered around the old rubber tree in Lavalle Square, in front of the "Teatro Colon," second home of the dear musical impresario.

Founder of Conciertos Gama, Szterenfeld was a key element in the local music of last half century. He represented orchestras like the Philharmonic of Israel or the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, to solo Artists like Yo-Yo Ma or Alicia de Larrocha, to singers like Cecilia Bartoli or Mirella Freni, to jazz players like Ellington (who dedicates an affectionate paragraph to him in his memoirs) or Bill Evans, among others.

The distinction of his clients never would have been guessed by the asceticism of his modest office. Szterenfeld was a most discreet man of the world, and his generosity is not less legendary. He avoided speaking about his artists with the critics. He had inherited the social preoccupations of his father, a communist worker who brought him from Munich at the age of two. He knew the best of the best in restaurants, and his favorite dessert was a baked apple. Alexander Szterenfeld was an expert and frugal in both the table and in life in general.


Alejandro Szterenfeld, A Life Dedicated to the Arts

Alejandro Szterenfeld, una vida para el arte
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By Héctor Coda
La NaciOn Line, June 18, 2004
English translation by Tito del Saz

Death surprised Alejandro Szterenfeld at his home at the age of 81, after a life dedicated totally to the art of musical theater—a business where his name was synonymous with efficiency and seriousness, two attributes strongly linked to his deep and knowledgeable understanding of the artistic path and careers of hundreds of artists from all over the world. Thanks to his hard work, these artists had an understanding of the intense musical roots of our country, many of them associated for a long period of time to our great theatre. Szterenfeld also opened the doors for many Argentinean artists to achieve international acclaim. For this reason there isn't a musical institution of importance in the northern hemisphere for the last half century that wouldn't recognize his professionalism in the competitive artistic world.

Alejandro Szterenfeld was born in Munich, Germany, in 1922. He was the only son of a German couple that relocated to South America when he five. Years later he was granted Argentinean citizenship. At an early age he studied music and mastered the violin, and after turning 25 his confidence of his knowledge of music along with his strong cultural upbringing allowed him transfer to the business side of theater.

He was the Director of “Conciertos Gama”—an organization in existence more than half a century and of very well-earned prestige. His constant generosity and gentleness and an iron-like discipline for detailed work combined with a special sense to discover extraordinary artistic talents where ever they hide. He was indispensable to any producer of musical events or concerts and his services were extremely valuable to the artistic development of our first “Theatre Colon” to which he felt extremely attached.

The Visitors

Thanks to Szterenfeld, extraordinary artists, prestigious orchestras, and ballet companies from all over the world were able to perform in this country, among them Philharmonic Orchestra of Philadelphia, The NHK Orchestra of Japan, Israel Philharmonic, The Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, The National of Spain, London Symphonic, I Musici, The Beethoven Quartet of Rome, Los Instrumentistas Leonard Rose, Leonid Kogan, Pinchas Zukerman, Horacio Gutierrez, Narciso Yepes, Alicia de Larrocha, Janos Starker, and many more.

Singers like Mirella Freni, Cecilia Bartoli, Frederika von Stade, Kathleen Battle or Neil Schikoff performed in the Theater Colon thanks to his management, along with the batons of conductors such as Franz-Paul Decker, Stephan Lano, Serge Baudo, Julius Rudel, and Juan Left Pablo Izquierdo.

Also the ballet and the theater attracted the attention of the efficient Argentine impresario, who was received in the most famous theaters worldwide with special consideration. Among the first companies to appear was the famous Netherlands Dance Theater, with Jiri Killian; the famous Mikhail Baryschnikov, Alvin Ailey and his company, The National ballet of Spain, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Company of Martha Graham, the Ballet of Tokyo, the unforgettable Mummenschanz of Switzerland, and companies of world-wide fame like the Takaguka Review of Tokyo and Ballet de Trocadero. Among the theater Groups, the Noh Theater and the Kyogen Theater of Japan, thanks to his intervention visited our country as well as solo performers like the famous Yo Yo Ma and the sitar artist Ravi Shankar.

There was no absence of Argentine artists on his rooster—Antonio De Raco, Lía Cimaglia, Bruno Gelber, the unforgettable Ana Itelman, and the guitarists Maria Luisa Anido and Irma Costanzo.

Also the jazz benefited from his intervention, artists like Duke Ellington, whose South American tours of 1968 and 1971 he organized; as well as Wilson Marsalis, Carmen MacRae, Bill Evans and his trio, the famous Swingle Singers, Teddy Wilson, Jack Lusier Trio, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz, Sara Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Earl Hines, among others.

For all, Alexander Szterenfeld will remain in the memory of the lovers of the arts; his name, which for a half century was mentioned in the important artistic centers of the world, will remain in the memory of those who knew him.

The remains of Alexander Szterenfeld were cremated, and his ashes will be deposited near the Theater Colon, to whom he dedicated the best efforts of his career.