Showing posts with label Sir Georg Solti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sir Georg Solti. Show all posts

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Solti statue for Budapest

The Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest, which is currently enjoying celebrations of its reopening after a major refurbishment, has put up a symbolic statue of Sir Georg Solti, an alumnus of the place. In the picture, Lady Valerie Solti is on the podium at the unveiling. More info here, in Hungarian. Solti studied at the Liszt Academy with Bartok, Dohnanyi and Kodaly, among others.

Google Translate says, rather touchingly: "...fulfillment of an old dream that the name of Sir Georg Solti takes up a small restaurant in the academy." I'm not sure that's quite what it means, but the great man might have enjoyed that. 

Meanwhile, back to Brum for the second of my Mendelssohn talks. Today's topic: Mendelssohn, Queen Victoria and more... Kick-off at 1pm in the Birmingham Town Hall. At 2.15pm the CBSO plays the symphonies nos 1 and 3 and the Piano Concerto No.2 with Martin Helmchen. Ed Gardner conducts.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Solti remembered

I had a long and fascinating interview with Lady Valerie Solti about her husband earlier this year and five sections of it are available to see on Sinfini Music, the new webzine recently launched under the auspices of (though editorially independent from) Universal Classics. Here's my article and the first of the films. Here is another chunk in which Lady Valerie talks about Solti's early life. And one in which she discusses Solti's last project, the work that he never lived to conduct, the score of which still stands on his desk today...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Solti's centenary

Somewhere in the house I still have a little lapel button bearing the words BRAVO SOLTI. It's a treasured souvenir from the great conductor's 80th birthday party, hosted by Decca at a Knightsbridge hotel in 1992, at which the company that had hosted his whole recording career presented him with the gift of a mountain bike. It was the only time I ever met him, and then only for the briefest of handshakes. More enduring is the memory of his music-making, notably the greatest Mahler 5 I've ever heard.

A couple of months ago I went up to St John's Wood to see Lady Solti and interviewed her in her husband's studio, surrounded by Grammys, Hungarian souvenirs and an array of memorabilia from his many decades at the top of the musical tree.

Here's the first part of the results: a major article in this week's JC, offering a taste of the celebratory events that are currently swinging into action and also, I hope, giving an intimate portrait of Sir Georg, his motivation and the way his philosophy of life was underpinned by his sense of his Hungarian Jewish identity. Read the whole thing here.

Solti was principal conductor of my OH's orchestra for several years and was received by its players with widely varying degrees of devotion, of lack of it. OH, being from a whole family of outsize central European personalities, adored him - Solti reminded him of his grandmother. Others didn't know how to cope with him. Some players nicknamed him "the screaming skull". And years later, one cellist persistently threatened to run over our cat (who, as you know, is named in Sir Georg's honour).

In the article Charles Kaye, Solti's right-hand man for around 20 years, talks about how Solti would wake up every morning wanting to be better at what he did and how he could inspire an entire orchestra to follow suit. OH encountered this in one form or another many times. During one rehearsal, he says, Solti turned on the first violins and shook the nearest music stand at them. "You must play this better!" he shouted, in that famous Hungarian accent. "I pay you money if you play it better!" OH put up his hand and said: "How much?" Solti was joking, of course - but it turned out that he liked being joked at in return.

UPDATE: And by special request, here is a personal tribute:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Historical for Mozart's Birthday, plus some news

First of all, I'm delighted to announce that I have "a new gig", contributing to The Spectator Arts Blog. My first piece is out today and it's a look at six of the best young opera singers I've come across in the last year or so. First up is Sophie Bevan, who will be singing her namesake in Der Rosenkavalier for ENO from Saturday. And five more budding superstars... Read it here.

And it's Mozart's birthday, and it's Friday, so here is some Friday Historical Mozart: the first movement of the Concerto for Three Pianos, with Sir Georg Solti (conducting and playing), Daniel Barenboim and Andras Schiff, and the English Chamber Orchestra. Happy 256th birthday to our darling Wolferl!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Historical: Happy Birthday, Solti!

Today Sir Georg Solti would have been 99 years old. "My life is the clearest proof that if you have talent, determination and luck, you will make it in the end," he once said. "NEVER GIVE UP."

His life and musicianship remain impressive, idealistic and inspiring tributes to the blazing fires of his artistic conviction. Here's an extract from the beginning of his autobiography, Solti on Solti:

In February 1997, when these memoirs were nearing completion, I conducted Bela Bartok's Cantata profana with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Hungarian Radio Chorus, and while the performance was in progress a great realization came over me. I understood that my whole life, the whole journey I have made, is contained within the story of the Cantata. 

Bartok, one of my teachers at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, had translated the Cantata's text from Romanian into Hungarian. It tells the story of a father who brings up his nine sons to be stag-hunters, instead of farmers or merchants - 'average' men. As the sons grow, they press their hunt into ever more remote areas of the forest, until one day they cross a haunted bridge and are themselves transformed into beautiful, enchanted stags. The father, worried by his sons' prolonged absence, sets out to look for them; eventually, he crosses the bridge, reaches a wellspring and sees the nine stags. He aims his rifle at the biggest of them, but just as he is about to shoot he hears the stag speak. The stag tells him that he is the eldest of the sons - the father's favourite - and he warns the father that if he tries to shoot any of the stags their antlers will tear him to pieces.
"Come with me," the father begs his sons. "Your mother stands waiting, lonely, loving, grieving...The lanterns are lit, the table is set, the glasses are filled..."
"We shall never return," says the son, "because our antlers cannot pass through the doorway." 
The work ends with the man's heartbreaking realization that his sons have become alien to him and will never again be what they were before. 
I had always interpreted this story as an allegory of Bartok's life, but as I conducted the Cantata that day I realized that I, too, was the stag. I was born and trained to communicate music, just as the sons were born and trained to hunt, and I was lucky to have grown up in Hungary, a country that lives and breathes music - that has a passionate belief in the power of music as a celebration of life. But one day, while I was still young, I was parted from my family and left my native country. I hunted and searched for music, and destiny turned me into the object of my hunt. The circumstances of life became my "antlers" and prevented me from returning home. 
I do not mean to exaggerate my importance, but, like other internationally recognised musicians, I belong to everyone and share with the whole world all I have to offer. The musical and personal rewards of the life I have led have been great, but so have the sacrifices. And there were times when I felt that the rewards would elude me forever."

Solti conducted some of the most memorable concerts I was fortunate enough to attend - I still recall his Mahler 5 at the RFH in c1988, a rendition I long to hear again almost every time I witness any other conductor trying to bring off that piece. Then there was the evening that Decca celebrated his 80th birthday with a party in a big London hotel at which they presented him with the gift of a mountain bike. And of course I'll remain ever grateful to Lady Valerie Solti, who spoke at the Hungarian Cultural Centre launch party for my Hungarian Dances three years ago and described the resonances that its narrative held for the story, too, of Sir Georg.

After Sir Georg's death, Valerie and their daughters established the Solti Foundation, which gives grants to young musicians to aid them in the awkward transition from music school to entering the profession, helping with coaching, travel to competitions, hiring rehearsal facilities, etc. To date, they have received applications from 40 countries. More details here.

Medici TV has a special birthday tribute to him today, a film in which he conducts Wagner, Strauss and Beethoven:!/georg-solti-wagner-strauss-beethoven

And here's a small extract from Mahler 5...