The Péter Horváth Stiftung is a unique foundation in Germany, which commits significant sums to the support of young talent, to economic development for mutual understanding between nations, to the preservation of European values and, above all, to culture. We talked to Irmgard Nille, who sits on the foundation’s board of trustees and is the widow of the founder, who passed away last year.
Júlia Váradi: I knew Péter Horváth for many years and my impression was that he was one of the most dedicated people I had ever met. What he has done for Hungarian culture is phenomenal. What were all the things he supported?
Irmgard Nille: Péter Horváth fled from Hungary to Germany after the 1956 uprising. Nonetheless, his passion for Hungarian culture remained with him throughout his life. He loved music, literature and the Hungarian spirit. Anything that promoted international understanding was particularly close to his heart. He was equally keen to support as many young talents as possible. That is why he supported the Budapest Festival Orchestra and its academy, and awarded an annual literary prize to young Hungarian debut writers. He also supported the Liszt Museum in Budapest and Holocaust research in Hungary, as well as the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Stuttgart.
J.V.: What did his enthusiasm for culture, especially for literature and music, derive from? Childhood impressions, perhaps?
I.N.: Péter Horváth was a successful scholar and entrepreneur, as well as a gentleman with a highly sophisticated mind, who was always open to the world. From a young age, he loved classical music, as well as jazz, and good books, especially early 20th-century writers. He read a great deal, so he knew almost everything. This was no doubt an important counterbalance to the demands of his professional life. And let us not forget sport. He ran the New York City Marathon twenty-two times, and football was also a passion of his.
J.V.: When and why did he move from Munich to Stuttgart?
I.N.: When he had completed his studies and internships in Germany, he habilitated in Munich and was then invited to the Technical University of Darmstadt, where he established the first controlling program in Germany. In 1981 he became head of the controlling program at the University of Stuttgart, and went on to earn considerable international renown as a scholar. He is considered a pioneer of controlling in the German-speaking world. At the same time, in 1981 he founded Horváth Management Consulting with his partners. Today Horváth AG employs around 1200 people.
J.V.: Why did he decide to support the BFO? When did he first see the orchestra?
I.N.: He met Iván Fischer during a visit to Hungary, and he was immediately taken by his charisma—perhaps because he discovered many parallels between themselves. From then on, he went to the concerts whenever he could, and would sometimes accompany the orchestra on its tours, which was always a great source of pleasure for him.
J.V.: Do you know what his greatest experiences with the Festival Orchestra were?
I.N.: I think the most memorable for him was the Italian trip of the Friends of the BFO. The beautiful concerts there, the amazing receptions with the noble friends of the BFO in the palazzi, and the grappa tasting with Iván Fischer. He enjoyed every minute of it.
J.V.: What led him to devote a very significant part of his wealth to culture, especially literature and music?
I.N.: The Péter Horváth Stiftung has supported and continues to support not only the arts, but also the economy and international understanding, especially between Germany and Hungary. But the focus has always been on helping young talent, perhaps because soon after Péter arrived in Germany as a young refugee in 1956, he received a substantial study grant that paved his way to a very successful future. Perhaps he wanted to show his gratitude throughout his life by passing on what he had received.
J.V.: After the death of Peter Horváth, wherein lies the future of the Foundation?
I.N.: I myself and my colleagues will make certain that the Péter Horváth Stiftung continues his life’s work in the spirit he would have wanted. That is the way for it to remain unforgettable.