Bernard M. Guth, 71, lawyer, music patron

Posted: June 12, 2006

Bernard M. Guth, 71, of Andalusia, a lawyer, real estate company executive, and music patron, died of an aneurism May 18 while vacationing on the Cote d'Azur in France.

Mr. Guth served on the board of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts for more than 30 years and was chairman of the board from 1987 to 1994. Since 1990, he had served on the board of Curtis Institute of Music.

Mr. Guth was "a gentleman of impeccable taste, wit, and infectious zest for the good life," said Gary Graffman, who retired last month as Curtis president and director. He combined business acumen with highly sophisticated musicianship and was a committed advocate for maintaining the highest quality of artistic effort, Graffman said.

During his tenure as chairman of the Mann, Mr. Guth was instrumental in engaging Charles Dutoit as the center's artistic director in 1990.

"Charlie's a pro," he told a reporter in 1991. "He has this amazing understanding of how to play the audience - how to teach them and satisfy them at the same time."

When a music critic complained about the Mann's zigzag of concrete steps and the sounds from birds and traffic during concerts, Mr. Guth objected and called her "the environmental and traffic reporter."

Mr. Guth grew up in Northeast Philadelphia. He began taking piano lessons when he was 4 and studied at the Settlement Music School and in New York City and Aspen, Colo. He could have been a professional pianist, his son, Adam, said, but he chose a more practical career and became a passionate promoter of Philadelphia music institutions.

He graduated from Central High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Penn.

In 1958, Mr. Guth married Janet Zeidman, granddaughter of real estate mogul Albert M. Greenfield, who encouraged his interest in real estate.

He practiced corporate law in Center City for 10 years and then was vice president of Banker's Bond & Mortgage Co., a Greenfield company.

In the 1970s, he became a partner in the real estate and development firm of Richard I. Rubin & Co. Associates. He was Rubin's project manager for the $22 million restoration of the Bellevue Stratford hotel and in 1983 he oversaw the renovation of Suburban Station.

"It's covered with years of dirt and grime," he told a reporter. "There's a beautiful building, an old, elegant building under all that dirt."

Adam Guth said: "He had a vision for the city. He wanted to restore historic landmarks rather than have them demolished."

For seven years until he retired in December 2004, Mr. Guth was executive vice president of Albert M. Greenfield & Co. He had served on the board of the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation since 1998.

In addition to his son, he is survived by a daughter, Mara; a brother; a sister; three grandchildren; and his former wife.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust St., Philadelphia.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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