The eminent Hungarian-born English conductor, Georg (actually György) Solti, studied piano and composition with Ernst von Dohnanyi, Zoltan Kodaly, Béla Bartók and Leó Weiner at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, giving his first concert at the age of 12.
Georg Solti began working as assistant at the Budapest Opera in 1930 and was director of music there from 1934 to 1939. In the summers of 1936 and 1937 he was assistant to Arturo Toscanini at the Salzburg Festival, an encounter that left a deep impression on the young musician. After the outbreak of the Second World War, he emigrated to Zurich, resuming his career as a pianist. He won first prize at the Geneva International Competition in 1942.
Georg Solti's career really began after the end of World War II. For almost 25 years, he concentrated entirely on conducting operas. He was chief musical director of the Munich Opera from 1947 to 1951 and of the Frankfurt Opera from 1952 to 1961. Covent Garden excelled during his tenure as musical director (1961-1971). In 1951 he conducted for the first time in Salzburg (Idomeneo by Mozart). At the end of the 1950’s he made his first recordings e.g. Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wagner with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1961 he was appointed as musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, but hardly ever worked in this position since the orchestra's management had appointed an assistant without asking him (the assistant was none other than Zubin Mehta!).
In 1969 Georg Solti took over as director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and his second career as a conductor of orchestral music began. He remained in this post until 1991. From 1972 to 1975 he was also director of the Orchestre de Paris. In 1973, Rolf Liebermann appointed him as musical adviser to the Paris Opera. From 1979 to 1983 he was director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1983, in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Richard Wagner, he conducted Der Ring des Nibelungen in Bayreuth but without achieving his customary high standard. He excels principally in the German and Austrian post-Romantic repertoire and in contemporary Hungarian music (Béla Bartók, Kodaly). In 1992 he took over from Herbert von Karajan as artistic director of the Salzburg Easter Festival (until 1994). In 1995 he was artistic adviser to the festival that replaced the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.
Georg Solti did a large number of first performances, including works by Gilbert Amy D'un espace deployé (1973), Boris Blacher Requiem (1959) and Collage for Orchestra (1968), David Del Tredici Final Alice (1976), Gottfried von Einem Philadelphia Symphony (1961), Hans Werner Henze Heliogabalus Imperator (1972), Rolf Liebermann L'Ecole des femmes (second version) (1957), Witold Lutoslawski Symphony No. 3 (1983), George Rochberg Symphony No. 5 (1986) and Iannis Xenakis Noomena (1976).
A film by Andy King Dabbs
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1985
Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1971
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Orchestre national de l'ORTF, Heather Harper (soprano), Helen Watts (contralto)