Today we look at a dominant figure on the international landscape. He conducted, amongst other fine orchestras, the Bavarian State Orchestra, the Royal Opera House at Covent Gardens, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he conducted 999 performances before his untimely death. Sir George Solti, born on this day in 1912.
Born in Budapest, he studied the piano at the Franz Liszt Academy. By 1935 he was gaining a reputation as a conductor, debuting with The Marriage of Figaro with the Budapest Opera. When war broke out, he fled to Switzerland where he continued his career as a pianist, but got little conducting opportunities. After the war, Solti was the music director of the Bavarian State Orchestra in Munich, and the Frankfurt Opera.
In 1961, Solti accepted the position as director at the Royal Opera House in Covent Gardens. Here his bald head and demanding rehearsal style earned him the nickname “The Screaming Skull.” He remained at the Royal Opera House until 1971.
Solti took up the position of music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1969, and remained in that position until 1991, where he was made the orchestra’s first and only Music Director Laureate. In total he conducted 999 performances with the CSO, with his 1000th performance scheduled for October 1997, were it not for his sudden death in September 1997. After a state funeral, his last wishes were to be buried in Hungarian Soil, placed alongside the remains of Bela Bartok, his tutor and mentor.
For your viewing pleasure today, I have a real treat – Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the first movement of Bruckner’s Symphony Number 6. Hope you enjoy.
Did you get to see any of Sir Georg’s performances? Do you have a favourite recording of his? Let me know in the comments, or write your own blog linking back here, and I’ll add a link below.