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Georg Solti (1912 - 1997)


Georg Solti studied as a pianist at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, where his teachers included Bartók, Kodály, and Leo Weiner. Here he developed his fidelity to the tempo, rhythm and dynamic of the written text, using these as the starting points of interpretation throughout his life. Having decided at an early age to be a conductor, Solti became a répétiteur at the Budapest Opera, working there in this position from 1931 to 1939. During 1937 he was engaged to play for the rehearsals of Die Zauberflöte conducted by Toscanini at the Salzburg Festival; the Italian maestro’s impact upon Solti was great, reinforcing his deep respect for the written text, as well as his ethic of continuous work and study. He made his operatic debut as a conductor at the Budapest Opera leading Le nozze di Figaro on 11 March 1938, the day of the Anschluss or German annexation of Austria.

Soon a fascist regime was in place in Hungary and Solti, a Jew, was sacked by the Budapest Opera. In order to seek a recommendation to work in America Solti travelled to Switzerland in 1939 to visit Toscanini. However the attempt to reach America came to nothing, and so in conducting terms, Solti’s career was stalled for the six years of World War II while he was effectively trapped in Switzerland. Here, unable to conduct but wishing to do so, he developed great prowess as a pianist, winning the first prize in the piano section of the Geneva International Music Competition in 1942.

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