1964. Georg Solti forgets that he had an appointment for an interview, but still opens the door to his hotel room for BBC reporter Valerie Pitts wearing nothing but a towel, and asks her to look for his socks. While searching, she admits to him that she’s not an opera fan, especially since that awful Electra in Frankfurt. Solti laughs; he was the one conducting the production. Pitts is 27, Solti over 50, both are married, yet it is love at first sight . . .
This is how Lady Solti remembers her first meeting with her husband; but in other areas as well, she is an endless source of recollections about this last giant of a conducting generation in which there was no lack of giants.
She tells the life story of the man without a home who hates the word “cosmopolitan,” and shows his conducting scores, filled with markings in two colors and falling apart at the seams: nothing came to him easily, he had to work hard and fight for everything.
But he discovered beauty everywhere, and whatever he did, he did with enthusiasm - an enthusiasm he also sought to pass on to others. Whether it was nature, good food, jokes, literature, or his greatest love of all, music.
© Ulla Pilz, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • 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.



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In Memoriam Pavarotti and Solti