Born in Budapest, Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997) became one of the foremost conductors and most influential musicians of the post-war era. He conducted every one of the world’s major orchestras, and assumed directorships of several major opera houses, including those of Munich, Frankfurt, and most notably, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He also worked at major music festivals in Salzburg, Glyndebourne, Edinburgh and Bayreuth. Solti had long-term relationships with the principal orchestras in London, Vienna and Paris, and enjoyed a highly celebrated and artistically fruitful 22-year tenure at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, beginning in 1969. His collaboration with musical institutions throughout the world produced a recorded legacy that encompasses more than 250 recordings, including 45 complete operas. He holds the industry record for the most Grammy Awards (31) earned by an individual artist in any category.
The Sir Georg Solti Archive in the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University, a gift of the Solti family, includes hundreds of conducting scores heavily marked and annotated by Solti, representing an extensive body of work of significance to scholars and musicians across the globe. Accumulated over the course of a career that spanned more than six decades, these scores illustrate how Solti’s interpretations developed, how he solved musical problems, and how he adapted performances to suit a particular context. Many of the scores in this exhibit illustrate stages in the evolution of his interpretations; even in the recording studio he employed different color pencils when reviewing progressive “takes.” The breadth of this collection, encompassing music from the 18th century to commissions from contemporary composers, indicates the extraordinary scope and variety of Solti’s musical interests. The achievements of his illustrious career secure his legacy as one of the foremost musicians of the 20th century.
Throughout this exhibit, pages from scores in the Sir Georg Solti Archive are paired with audio clips demonstrating Solti’s interpretive choices. Solti’s reflections and comments on composers and their music are drawn from his Memoirs (Knopf, 1997); the final chapter bears the title, Music, First and Last.