Great 20th century conductor. b. 1912 - d. 1997

Born in Hungary, inadvertantly exiled himself by seeking a conducting gig outside of Hungary in Zurich at the onset of WWII. Got his start as a lieder coach and opera conductor, heading up orchestras and opera houses in Zurich, Frankfurt, London, Chicago. Finished off his life as a freelance conductor.

First wife left him because, as he says, he "lost his mystery". Once destroyed a ballet performance by conducting at Schumann's indicated tempo marking on the score, infuriating the dancers and almost getting him lynched. Valerie, his second wife, was twenty years his junior, and this point illustrates just how much of a mack Solti was.

Hung out with Strauss, Stravinsky, Arturo Toscanini; Luciano Pavarotti made spaghetti for him. Conducted and acted as music supervisor on the film Immortal Beloved.

Once stabbed himself in the head with his baton during a performance of Figaro at The Met in 1976. Had enough of a sense of humor to include this in his memoirs, right before he starts talking about his massive repertoire and work ethic as a musician.
This may be relatively insignificant, but I'll never forget this moment. I was watching Charlie Rose one night, and Sir George Solti was on the show. Charlie asked a cliched softball question, and Solti's response was as brilliant as the question was banal.

Rose: What is your favorite symphony?

Solti: Only an amateur has one favorite symphony.
He was born Gyuri Stern in Budapest on 21 October 1912. He won the International Piano Competition in Geneva in 1942. He was music director at Covent Garden from 1961 to 1971; and of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 1992, turning it into one of the world's greatest orchestras; and of L'Orchestre de Paris from 1972 to 1975. He was knighted in 1972.

When he died (on holiday in the south of France) on 5 September 1997, Chicago was expecting him to conduct his one-thousandth concert there. Britain was in the final days of the Proms series, where he was due to conduct the Verdi Requiem on the second-last night; and the country was in deep mourning for Diana, Princess of Wales. The sudden, very unexpected loss of Sir Georg at this time was devastating for the music world.

His ashes are buried in Budapest, next to Bartok. Lady Solti, Valerie Solti as she is always known, has been a proud and enthusiastic speaker in his memory, much respected in her own right. She stresses what a devoted father he was. When he died, BBC Radio 3 pulled their programming and staged a day-long tribute to him, and she was in the thick of it.

Solti's affectionate but awed nickname among musicians was "The Screaming Skull". The name Solti, being Hungarian, is pronounced Sholti. The Georg is usually pronounced in the English way as George.

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