Georg Solti

Widely acknowledged as one of the most brilliant conductors of all time, Hungarian-born George Solti achieved great heights on concert stages, opera houses and recording studios, though he was best known for his ten years as artistic director at the Royal Opera House and over 20 years in the same role with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He also spent several years with the London Philharmonic. Growing up in Hungary, he had piano lessons as a child and, excelling in the craft, he made his public debut at the age of 12 and the following year started his study at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, going on to join the Budapest Opera and work with Toscanini at the 1936 and 1937 Salzburg Festivals. He made his conducting debut with 'Le Nozze di Figaro' in Budapest in 1938. His career was interrupted by the rise of the Nazis and the onset of World War II. Solti, from a Jewish family, left Eastern Europe and, after conducting a season of Russian ballet at the Royal Opera House in London, spent most of the war living in Switzerland, playing piano for a living and winning the 1942 Geneva International Piano Competition in the process. After the war he was appointed musical director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and went on to spend nine years in charge of the Frankfurt Opera. In 1961 he was appointed musical director of the Covent Garden Opera Company in London and in the next decade established the company as one of the best in the world. He subsequently became a British citizen in 1972. Known for the intensity of his work in his early career, he visibly mellowed in later years during his time in Chicago, though he still caused a stir with his presentation of Wagner's 'Ring' operas with Sir Peter Hall in 1983 and in 1986 when he returned to the stage as a pianist for the first time in 40 years at the Aldeburgh Festival in aid of charity. He never retired and continued to work well into his eighties, winning numerous awards along the way. In 1991 he collaborated with comedian Dudley Moore to create an eight-part TV series titled 'Orchestral' and he celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations by forming the World Orchestra for Peace. He died in 1997 while on holiday at the age of 84.

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