Berlin loses a cultural institution

Berlin loses a cultural institution


norman lebrecht

April 23, 2015

Many in the music world will be saddened to hear of the death of Peter Föste, founder of the Literaturhaus in Berlin and dispenser of friendship and hospitality to the artistic community. He created an indispensable cultural hub. The conductor Yoel Gamzou, a recipient of his kindness, remembers a man with a passion for art.



Probably not many outside Berlin have ever heard of Peter Föste. In fact not even many people in Berlin would immediately associate the name with the man behind one of Berlin’s most legendary institutions.

There is hardly anybody in Berlin who hasn’t been or heard of the legendary Literaturhaus and its world-famous Wintergarten café, a place where one can easily encounter three or four Nobel Prize winners in one evening, sharing a space in complete discretion, let alone the numerous writers, musicians, artists, journalists and other keen Berliners who come in and out of this last safe-haven of culture, one of the last fortresses of old-world Europe, a magical place where time stops and inspiration flows.

This entire world was created by Peter Föste, a man of many passions who was unique in his humility and generosity, who yesterday lost his battle to cancer. In an age of vanity and constant thirst for recognition he was definitely a rare phenomenon. I have been extremely fortunate to be a close friend of this true gentleman, a man who avoided any attention or exposure and pursued his ideals with unparalleled conviction.

A few years ago, through his acquaintance with my orchestra – a group of some extraordinary and not quite “mainstream-compatible” musicians – Peter decided to launch a chamber-music series which has by now become an establishment in the area. He fought for those musicians he believed in with the same indefatigable integrity and energy as he did for his own moral, political and personal convictions, never expecting any acknowledgement, recognition or power – avoiding with embarrassment all situations in which one would feel or express any gratitude.

Peter Föste fostered a very special group of musicians and gave them the space to develop their personalities and cherish their individuality in a way they couldn’t find anywhere else. But first and foremost, it is us who were so incredibly lucky to have met a man of such extraordinary nobility and generosity, almost a spiritual father to us all, who taught us a huge amount about a selfless passion for the arts and true humanism. The cultural scene in Berlin has lost one of its most unique and distinctive personalities. The music scene lost a man of rare courage and integrity. We have all lost a dear friend of incomparable warmth, generosity and love. Rest in peace my dear friend.


  • RW2013 says:

    The Literaturhaus is not being lost!

  • John Borstlap says:

    Touching tribute. Did not know the background of the Literaturhaus where I enjoyed really very agreeable meetings. The food in the café is great.

  • Zenaida says:

    Thank you for this post – it has not been reported in German media yet!!
    The Literaturhaus is a most convivial meeting place, set in a lovely garden, serving good food. It also has a very active calendar of cultural events. Let us hope that it continues all these wonderful traditions – and I say that also because I live right around the corner from it and am a frequent guest.

  • Margot says:

    The building itself naturally is not lost – but its spirit, who created this extraordinary atmosphere, which everybody enjoyed without noticing Peter Föste’s effort, passion and time he took to make us feel so well and rich of culture in this place. This also was one of his qualities: not to show off his talent and hard work but stay (way to far) behind the curtains! He indeed was one of the last true plus unconventional gentlemen, whom I had the honour to get in touch with since the very beginning of his and his wifes time in the “Cafe Wintergarten”. May his soul find the peace it deserves most and his family the strength to deal with his loss. He will not be forgotten and his kindness and generosity will continue in everybody who knew and appreachiated his personality.