1912 born in Budapest as György Stern. After the First World War, people with German family names are encouraged to change them so they would be more Hungarian-sounding. Their father gives the children the name of a nearby village, Solti. After emigrating, Solti changes his first name to Georg
Studies piano, composition, and conducting with Bartók, Kodály, Dohnányi, and Weiner
1937 Toscanini’s assistant at the Salzburg Festival
Before the outbreak of the Second World War, emigrates to Switzerland. In 1942, first prize at an international piano competition in Genf
1946-1952 director of the Munich State Opera, becomes internationally active as a conductor
1952-1961 General Music Director of the Frankfurt Opera
1961-1971 director of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, which under his direction becomes one of the world’s leading opera houses. Is knighted in 1972
1969-1992 Principal Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, holding the same position from 1979-1984 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra
1995 founds the World Orchestra for Peace to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations
1997 Solti dies while on vacation in Antibes. He is buried in Budapest beside Béla Bartók, the inscription on his tombstone reads “Hazat,” “Returned home”
Did you know?
As a Jew, he was heavily criticized for working in Germany after the Second World War; but he believes in a new Europe, and also says that he would be ready, like Faust, to make a pact with the devil only in order to conduct.
With his second marriage, Solti becomes a family man: he says that never in his life did he come closer to a religious experience than when he was holding his two newborn daughters in his arm.
When Solti flies, absolutely no one is permitted to disturb him - officially so he has peace and quiet to work, unofficially due to his fear of flying.
His moments of rage are feared, earning him the nickname “the screaming skull” in Covent Garden.
Sir Georg Solti won more awards than nearly any other conductor, and in every musical category, earning the highest number of Grammys (31 in all).
When it comes to recordings, he is so demanding that he (along with his label’s team, whom he lovingly refers to as the “Decca boys”) revolutionizes recording technology; he left behind more recordings than any other conductor.
Solti always strives for perfection; he says that if he were ever happy after a concert, we’d know that there was something wrong with him.