The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Applications are due Oct. 1 for the first Georg Solti International Conductor Competition to be held in Chicago. | August 22, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

I don’t have any intention of becoming a  conductor.

Still, I found the announcement of the inaugural Georg Solti International Conductor Competition and Apprenticeship fascinating.

Applications are due Oct. 1 for the competition, which will be held in Chicago Feb. 4-7, 2011.

For one, this will be a very big fall and season for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Maestro Riccardo Muti takes over the podium next month, taking the place of former CSO music director Daniel Barenboim. He has already hired superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma as an artistic advisor.

For another, I was a big admirer of Solti (1912-1997, below) and still relish many of his CSO recordings. If  I am not mistaken, Solti still holds the record for the most Grammys — 31 — won by a single artist. And he recorded for London the first complete recording of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. I liked his Brahms and Beethoven symphonies, his Mahler symphonies less so.

Anyway, take a careful look at the press release — and maybe even think about applying if you want to be a professional conductor.

Here’s a link:–7-2011-chicago-deadline-for-applicati/

Lower further down, and check out at the interesting repertoire applicants must know.

Curiously, I don’t see any Bach or Haydn, although I do see Mozart.

Perhaps they give the baroque repertoire a pass because of period instrument groups. But you’d think some really juicy contrapuntal section of a passion or suite or Brandenburg concerto might show off some special skills. And I remember one famous conductor saying he always used Haydn to clean an orchestra of its leftover bad habits.

What do you think of Solti?

Do you have a favorite Solti recording?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music


  1. Your memory of “one famous conductor saying he always used Haydn to clean an orchestra of its leftover bad habits” comes from a New Yorker article a few years back concerning the Cleveland Orchestra. Specifically I recall his saying that making them play Haydn was “hygiene.”

    It is ironic that this is the same conductor of whom criticism by a newspaper writer (commented upon earlier this month by you) has caused such controversy. Parenthetically, as for myself, I cannot classify Haydn in the same class as Bach or Mozart, composers who were able to transcend the structural bonds of their musical styles.

    Comment by Richard Day — August 24, 2010 @ 8:31 am

    • Hi Richard,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I really don’t think it was Franz Welser-Most who commented on using Haydn, though I could be wrong.
      I thought it was either Leonard Slatkin or Andre Previn.
      But whoever did it, the larger point is the importance the Classical repertoire plays in strong part playing and building instrumental sections. Clarity is such a strong point and there is no room for fudging.
      I would agree with you about Haydn. I see him as extremely inventive and competent, while I see Mozart as more lyrical and inspired.
      Do any other readers have suggestions about who used Haydn to house clean?
      Do any other readers agree or disagree about Haydn?

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 24, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  2. One of the first opera albums I ever owned was Solti’s recording of Wagner’s Die Walkure. As noted in a review on,

    “the possibilities inherent in the long-playing record inspired John Culshaw, a young producer for Decca, to attempt the most ambitious recording project ever contemplated up to that time–a complete studio recording of the Ring. Though other Rings were issued after this landmark enterprise, none have equaled the Decca Ring in popularity….this remains the benchmark Ring, as shown by its seemingly endless re-release schedule. The Ring effort was high profile at the time and helped nail down Sir Georg Solti’s status as a “superstar” conductor and authoritative interpreter of the Wagnerian repertory. Another key contributor to the success of the project was the uniform excellence in the casting…. definitive performances…include…(Birgit) Nilsson in her prime – more a force of nature than a human voice. The care lavished on the capture of the music was unmatched at the time of the recording, and still leaves this as one of the best sounding Rings even today –Christian C. Rix”

    (Let me add that although it’s not related to Solti, when I was much younger I also had the extraordinary experience of having heard Nilsson live in Die Walkure at the old Met opera house on 39th street. It was overwhelming – I’ve never heard a bigger sound come out of a human being, while George London’s Wotan was incredibly moving and brought tears to my young eyes.)

    Comment by Marius — August 23, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    • Hi Marius,
      Another great choice from you along with another great anecdote that makes one envy your experiences.
      All that plus a piece of history in the form of a review.
      Many thanks.
      Please keep reading and replying.
      And listening.

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 23, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

  3. Solti was a great interpreter and an amazing musician. My favorite recordings include the Elgar Enigma Variations, Verdi’s Requiem, Mahler Symphony No.5 and Bruckner Symphony No.7. Here is a link to an interesting story about Solti:,9171,946618,00.html

    Comment by Steve Kurr — August 22, 2010 @ 11:54 am

    • Hi Steve,
      All great choices from the immense Solti discography.
      And many thanks for the link to the story. It’s a keeper.
      Thanks, as ever, for reading and replying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 23, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

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