Sir Georg Solti

Conductor

Sir Georg Solti

Solti's interpretations held more than surface excitement. In conducting Beethoven, for example, he long held that the symphonies should be played with all their repeats to maintain their structural integrity, and he carefully rethought his approach to tempo, rhythm, and balance in those works toward the end of his life.

In 1972 he became a British subject and received his official knighthood; under the circumstances, he also sanctioned the pronunciation of his first name as "George," although he retained the German spelling.

Solti was regarded as, above all, a superb Wagnerian. His performances and countless recordings of other nineteenth century German and Austrian music were also well-regarded, as were his Verdi and his frequent forays into such twentieth century repertory as Bartók, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky. Solti served as a strong advocate for such new works as Hans Werner Henze's Heliogabalus Imperator, David Del Tredici's Final Alice, and Michael Tippett's Symphony No. 4, all of which he premiered in Chicago.

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Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex

Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex

and works by Strauss and Kodály


Kodály:

Háry János Suite

Strauss, R:

Elektra (highlights)

Stravinsky:

Oedipus Rex

Peter Pears (Oedipus), Kerstin Meyer (Jocasta), Donald McIntyre (Creon), Benjamin Luxon (Messenger), Alec McCowen (narrator)


Both Strauss’s Elektra and Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex trace their lineages back to Sophocles, the Greek dramatist who lived in the fourth century BC. Both are stories of the avenging of a royal father’s murder, either by surviving family members (Elektra), or by Fate or the gods themselves (Oedipus Rex).

Even from an early age, Georg Solti knew that his greatest ambitions lay in the opera house. ‘From a purely musical point of view, working closely with singers teaches you to make music in a way that breathes – even in purely instrumental music,’ Solti once remarked. In his youth, Solti assisted Bruno Walter, Issay Dobrowen, Fritz Busch and Erich Kleiber. In Salzburg, in 1937, he was rehearsal pianist for Arturo Toscanini. So, by the time he came to conducting his first opera (Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro) at age 26, he knew the ropes, so to speak. According to him, to ‘play rhythmically but softly, so that the singers always feel the pulse but need not tire their voices’ was a crucial factor in being a repetiteur. He continued, ‘don’t play all the notes, but play all the essential notes; when you are coaching an individual singer in a role, take the lead, but when you are playing for a staging or ensemble rehearsal, follow – follow for dear life! I was able to follow the worst singer to hell and back. I could have followed a bird’s chirping.’

Exclusively a Decca recording artist (apart from a few recordings made for Deutsche Grammophon, RCA and CBS by arrangement with Decca), he made more than 250 recordings for the company over a 50-year period: 1947–1997, taking in music from Bach to Tippett. The three excerpts from Elektra (amounting to nearly half the complete opera) are particularly fascinating as this was an opera Solti conducted throughout his career and which he later recorded in its entirety in Vienna in the 1960s with the incomparable Birgit Nilsson in the title-role. Even in this group of three scenes all the essential Solti characteristics are in evidence: tremendous rhythmic drive and an acute ear for orchestral colour and detail.

“the dark sobriety and essentially lyric qualities of Stravinsky’s “opera-oratorio” are freshly and memorably conveyed in this recording” Gramophone Magazine, February 1978 (Stravinsky)

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Kodály & Bartók: Orchestral Works

Kodály & Bartók: Orchestral Works


Bartók:

Dance Suite, BB 86, Sz. 77

Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, BB 114, Sz. 106

Kodály:

Háry János Suite

Variations on a Hungarian Folksong 'The Peacock'

William McAlpine (tenor)

London Philharmonic Choir

Psalmus hungaricus, Op. 13

William McAlpine (tenor)

London Philharmonic Choir

Dances of Galanta


Georg Solti studied piano with Bartók and although they never developed a close personal relationship, Solti was always in awe of the composer’s dedication and intensity. Bartók’s music featured regularly in Solti’s concert programs and he recorded the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and the Dance Suite again for Decca. This 1952 recording of the Dance Suite with the London Philharmonic Orchestra was one of his earliest orchestral discs and the conductor’s instinctive sense of rhythm is ever-pervasive. There are also some delightful touches of humour to be encountered in these recordings, such as those in Kodály’s Háry János Suite.

Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus was the first work to bring him international recognition, and it also brought him back into favour at home. It was composed to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the unification of the cities of Óbuda, Buda, and Pest to form modern-day Budapest. Solti revisited both the Peacock Variations and Psalmus Hungaricus 43 years after the present recording, in June 1997. This 1954 recording of Kodály’s choral masterpiece is performed in English.

“The finale goes with an exhilarating swagger, and the balance between the trumpets’ and horns’ imitative block chords is well maintainied” Gramophone Magazine, August 1955 (Kodály: Háry János)

“Orchestra and chorus shine in the Psalm […] Georg Solti is to be congratulated on two such vital readings” Gramophone Magazine, October 1954 (Psalmus Hungaricus, Peacock Variations)

Building a Library

Also Recommended - April 2017

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Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 & Violin Concerto

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 & Violin Concerto


Beethoven:

Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, Op. 60

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61

Mischa Elman (violin)


Georg Solti recorded the Beethoven Fourth three times – twice with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1974, 1987) and in 1950 with the London Philharmonic. The LPO recording was among Solti’s earliest Decca recording sessions and was issued, first on 78rpm and immediately after on LP using Decca’s then revolutionary FFRR technology.

Fêted by the Victor Talking Machine Company in the early decades of the twentieth century, Mischa Elman was a considerable presence in the recording world in those years. The arrival of Jascha Heifetz in 1917 had a considerable impact on violin recordings in general, and public interest in Elman flagged. Victor was Elman’s company for more than 40 years, but in 1954 he decided to move to Decca for whom he recorded several concertos (something relatively absent from his Victor repertoire). For his recording of the Beethoven concerto he was paired with the young Solti, who allowed him due elasticity and freedom of interpretation. While there’s no pretending that by 1955 when the recording was made Elman was past his prime, it remains a fascinating account – a meeting of two very different minds, with dynamic extremes on Solti’s part and an instinctive nineteenth-century leaning towards portamento on Elman’s.

“many good qualities, and the recording is excellent” Gramophone Magazine (Violin Concerto)

“the flute tone is noticeably sweet […] Tonally and technically this is a wide-ranging record” Gramophone Magazine, May 1951 (Symphony No. 4)

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Sir Georg Solti conducts Haydn & Mozart

Sir Georg Solti conducts Haydn & Mozart


Haydn:

Symphony No. 100 in G major 'Military'

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 102 in B flat major

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Symphony No. 103 in E flat major 'Drum Roll'

first international release on Decca CD

London Philharmonic Orchestra

Mozart:

Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K183

London Symphony Orchestra

Symphony No. 38 in D major, K504 'Prague'

London Symphony Orchestra

Serenade No. 13 in G major, K525 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik'

first international release on Decca CD

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra


As part of the Eloquence series of early Solti recordings, this 2CD set features the conductor in music by Haydn and Mozart, recorded between 1949 and 1958. The 1949 recording of Haydn’s ‘Drum Roll’ Symphony and the 1958 recording of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (recorded in spatial early stereo) make their first international appearances on Decca CD. Solti re-recorded the three Haydn symphonies heard here, again with the London Philharmonic, adding the remaining ‘London’ Symphonies, between 1981 and 1991 in stereo. Likewise, he re-recorded the Mozart ‘Prague’ in 1981 as part of a set of the composer’s four last symphonies, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The fiery, passionate account of the G minor, KV 183, and the stereo Eine kleine Nachtmusik are his only recording of these works.

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Solti Overtures

Solti Overtures


Beethoven:

Egmont Overture, Op. 84

Rossini:

L'Italiana in Algeri Overture

First international release on Decca CD

Il barbiere di Siviglia Overture

First international release on Decca CD

Suppe:

Leichte Kavallerie Overture

First international release on Decca CD

Dichter und Bauer Overture

First international release on Decca CD

Ein Morgen, ein Mittag, ein Abend in Wien Overture

First international release on Decca CD

Pique Dame Overture

First international release on Decca CD

Verdi:

La forza del destino Overture

First international release on Decca CD


This collection of overtures – many of them appearing internationally on Decca CD for the first time – comes from the very start of Georg Solti’s recording career. That for Beethoven’s Egmont was, in fact, his first recording as conductor, issued as a 78rpm record. The two Rossini overtures were issued as a 45rpm and the Verdi was included on a collection of other overtures and orchestral music from opera.

Solti re-recorded several of the overtures in this collection in stereo with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. But for sheer explosive energy, these rare mono recordings from the late-1940s and the first half of the 1950s remain as persuasive as ever and are collectors’ items.

“First-rate, both of them, with every player on his toes (which is the only position in which to play Rossini) and the result is of both charm and virtuosity. A bright recording suits the character of the music…” Gramophone Magazine, December 1955 (Rossini)

“The playing is real musical, intelligent, and interested.” (Suppe) Gramophone, November 1951 Most enjoyable … well recorded” Gramophone Magazine, July 1951 (Verdi)

“The playing is real musical, intelligent, and interested” Gramophone Magazine, November 1951 (Suppe)

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Solti at Covent Garden

Solti at Covent Garden


Gluck:

Orfeo ed Euridice - Dance of the Furies

Orfeo ed Euridice (Orphée et Euridice): Dance of the Blessed Spirits

Gounod:

Faust - Ballet Music

Offenbach:

Barcarolle (from Les Contes d'Hoffmann )

Ponchielli:

Dance of the Hours (from La Gioconda)

Rossini:

L'Italiana in Algeri Overture

Semiramide Overture

Verdi:

La traviata: Prelude to Act 1

La traviata: Prelude to Act 3


Beginning in 1961, Georg Solti enjoyed a ten-year tenure as Music Director of London’s Covent Garden Opera Company, where he raised performance standards while giving British singers more prominence than ever before. These changes were not lost on Buckingham Palace, and in 1968, Covent Garden earned the right to be renamed ‘The Royal Opera’. With its orchestra he made some of his – and posterity’s – most thrilling recordings, cherished by music-lovers and audiophiles the world over. The 1960 recording of the ballet music from Faust was issued first as a 45rpm disc and later as a coupling to the Offenbach-Rosenthal Gaîte Parisienne, surely the very definition of the fabled ‘Decca Sound’ (it appears on Decca Eloquence 480 6589). The pieces by Verdi, Rossini, Offenbach and Ponchielli were originally issued by RCA in 1959 (in England) and 1960 (in the USA) and in the 1970s on Decca when the recordings repatriated to them.

“given a straight, crisp, neat performance [Dance of the Hours] … delicious oboe playing” Gramophone Magazine, April 1960 (L’italiana in Algeri)

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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 & Russian Orchestral Works

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 & Russian Orchestral Works


Borodin:

Prince Igor Overture

Berliner Philharmoniker

Glinka:

Ruslan & Lyudmila Overture

Berliner Philharmoniker

Mussorgsky:

Khovanshchina: Prelude & Dance of the Persian Slaves

Berliner Philharmoniker

A Night on the Bare Mountain

Berliner Philharmoniker

Tchaikovsky:

Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 'Little Russian'

Paris Conservatoire Orchestra

Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

Paris Conservatoire Orchestra

Serenade for strings in C major, Op. 48

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra


Solti’s 1956 recordings of the Tchaikovsky Second and Fifth symphonies included on this collection are his only recordings of them. He never recorded a complete cycle, although, in the 1970s he recorded the Fifth and Sixth. Both symphonies were recorded with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra. The story behind his recording of Russian orchestral favourites is an interesting one. In 1959 he recorded this program with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In 1966 he recorded a near-identical program with the London Symphony Orchestra. The Berlin recording was not issued on LP until July 1973, held back to make room for the LSO program. The ‘Dance of the Persian slaves’ was issued on CD by Decca in 1998, but this is the first integral release internationally on Decca CD. This release forms part of a mini-series on Eloquence of, in the main, Solti’s early recordings.

“Solti’s hurricane-like Tchaikovsky Serenade has to be heard to be believed – the finale almost flies off with the gale” Penguin Guide

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Solti at the Ballet

Solti at the Ballet


Dukas:

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Offenbach:

Gaîté Parisienne

arr. Rosenthal

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Rossini:

La Boutique fantasque

arr. Respighi

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Tchaikovsky:

Swan Lake, Op. 20 Suite

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a

Chicago Symphony Orchestra


The Hungarian-born conductor Georg Solti (1912–1997) was one of Decca’s most prolific recording artists. Eloquence’s survey of his recordings features, in the main, some of his earliest recordings for the company. Although recorded as far back as 1960, during his tenure with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Solti’s recording of Gaîté parisienne remains one of the sonically most thrilling orchestral recordings ever to be made and a performance that is no less impactful. Both the Rossini/Respighi and the Dukas pieces were recorded with the Israel Philharmonic in the late 1950s at a time when Solti also recorded music by Mozart, Schubert Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky with this orchestra. The coupling of the Rossini/Respighi and Dukas works was the first recording Decca was to issue with the Israel Philharmonic (in September 1957).

In 1967, Solti became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1991. During his tenure there, his work as a recording artist continued unabated, including complete symphony cycles by Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Bruckner and Tchaikovsky. As music director laureate, he continued to record with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until 1997.

“The Nutcracker suite brings consistently responsive playing from every department of this fine orchestra, and many touches of affectionate detail from Solti … The whole performance is relaxed yet characterful and the individual dances emerge as freshly as ever.” Gramophone Magazine, May 1987

“The Swan Lake suite … has a winning spontaneity” Gramophone Magazine, May 1989

“The Covent Garden orchestra is on its toes, and its new conductor gets some exhilarating playing, and the quality is all you could wish for” Gramophone Magazine, November 1961 (Offenbach)

“an absolutely splendid recording … This Solti performance [of La Boutique fantasque] is sheer delight, played as it is with a combination of style and gusto it needs; a most exhilarating performance … this is an excellent debut on Decca” Gramophone Magazine, October 1957 (Rossini/Respighi, Dukas)

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Bartók: Orchestral Works

Bartók: Orchestral Works


Bartók:

Concerto for Orchestra, BB 123, Sz.116

London Symphony Orchestra

Dance Suite, BB 86, Sz. 77

London Symphony Orchestra

The Miraculous Mandarin, Op. 19, Sz. 73 (suite)

London Symphony Orchestra

Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, BB 114, Sz. 106

London Symphony Orchestra

Divertimento for Strings, Sz. 113

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Hungarian Sketches, BB 103, Sz. 97

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Romanian Folk Dances for piano, Sz. 56, BB 68

Chicago Symphony Orchestra


Georg Solti studied piano with Bartók and although they never developed a close personal relationship, Solti was always in awe of the composer’s dedication and intensity. In 1937 he was also page-turner for the first performance of the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion given by the composer and his wife, Ditta Bartók-Pasztory. Bartók’s music featured regularly in Solti’s concert programs and he recorded the Concerto for Orchestra, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and The Miraculous Mandarin again with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Dance Suite was also recorded in an earlier version with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1952 – one of his earliest orchestral discs. While, fundamentally, Solti did not change his approach to much of the music he conducted through his career, the freshness and excitement of these early London performances is to be treasured. The 1963 recording of Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta appears internationally on Decca CD for the first time. This release forms part of a mini-series on Eloquence of, in the main, Solti’s early recordings.

“Solti secures an excellently played and finely graded reading […] The Decca engineers give us clean-cut tone without it becoming dry […] Balance is most sensitive throughout” Gramophone Magazine, November 1964 (Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta)

“There is a daemonic intensity about this which never lets up […] a brilliant performance of a disturbing work” Gramophone Magazine, November 1964 (The Miraculous Mandarin: suite)

“The Divertimento is superbly done … incisive and full –bodied, and the Hugarian and Romanian dances have all the atmosphere one could wish for” Penguin Guide ***

“‘There is more spontaneity too [than in his Chicago recording] and one senses Solti’s Hungarian upbringing more readily here [Concerto for Orchestra] […] the performance is strong and fiery and the recording exemplary” Penguin Guide *** (Dance Suite)

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Wagner: Götterdämmerung: Act 3

Wagner: Götterdämmerung: Act 3

Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall, 6 September 1963


Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Gottlob Frick (Hagen), Marie Collier (Gutrune), Thomas Stewart (Gunther), Barbara Holt (Woglinde), Gwyneth Jones (Wellgunde) & Maureen Guy (Floßhilde)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House & Royal Opera Chorus, Georg Solti

“Solti is clearly looking to bring out the solo virtuosity of members of the orchestra in Wagner's adventurous part-writing, exploiting the abilities of his new London wind and brass players…if Windgassen is not as fresh of voice as in his 1955 Bayreuth performances for Testament's Keilberth cycle…his delivery of the narration before his death shows increasing imagination and fluency. Nilsson is in fiery form” Gramophone Magazine, November 2015

“the voices ring out thrillingly. And what voices! Gottlieb Frick’s black, baleful Hagen, Marie Collier’s vivid Gutrune, Wolfgang Windgassen’s rock-solid Siegfried, the young Gwyneth Jones as a Rhinemaiden and, above all, Birgit Nilsson’s glorious, orchestra-subduing high notes.” Sunday Times, 19th June 2015

“The dramatic weighting in his conducting is almost faultless – it’s hard to imagine Siegfried’s Funeral March delivered with more implacable intensity, and the Opera House orchestra plays out of its skin for him...Nilsson was arguably approaching her zenith as the greatest Wagnerian soprano of her time. The final Immolation scene, with her voice seemingly surfing effortlessly on the waves of orchestral sonority, is startling by any standards.” The Guardian, 15th July 2015 ****

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