October 21, 2012 marks Sir Georg Solti's centenary and Decca is celebrating this with several important reissues.
Sir Georg was an exclusive Decca artist for 50 years.
In 1947 he signed his first contract with Decca - as a pianist and that same year he made his first record as a conductor (with the Zurich Tonhalle in Beethovens Egmont Overture). His last public concerts took place just a few weeks before his death in 1997 and were with the Zurich Tonhalle.
This unique performance of Mozart's great Requiem took place on 5 December 1991, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the composer's death. Conducted by maestro Sir Georg Solti. Mozart's music was performed as an integral part of the liturgy for which it was originally intended, rhe special taking place in the magnificent setting of St Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, where Mozart's funeral rites were said on 6 December 1791.
It is more than twenty years since Solti last recorded Così for Decca, and if that earlier version was far from ideally cast, this new one more than makes amends. Above all, it has a commanding Fiordiligi in Renée Fleming, who conveys all the tragic vulnerability of this central character. Her performance of the great second-act rondo ‘Per pietà’ would be enough to melt the hardest of hearts. Anne Sofie von Otter and Olaf Bär are in fine form, too; and while Adelina Scarabelli is not exactly a mistress of disguises (she scarcely alters her voice at all for Despina’s part as the mesmeric doctor), her vitality is irresistible. More contentious is the Ferrando of Frank Lopardo. True, he can scale down his voice admirably, but all too often he lacks a genuine sense of line, and his intonation is unreliable.
This will be the Magic Flute chosen by most people who want to live with just one. It finds Georg Solti in a relatively relaxed state of mind, with an excellent if not particularly famous cast, and an orchestra and chorus that any conductor would give his left arm (not the one that welds the baton) to work with. The singers are not particularly well-known (London seems to have set up Solti as the star of this production) but a lack of celebrity attitudes and close attention to the conductor have paid substantial dividends in this production. Sumi Jo, in a spectacular and dramatic performance of the Queen of the Night's two arias, attracts special attention, as do Uwe Heilmann (Tamino) and Michael Kraus (Papageno). –Joe McLellan
While Kiri Te Kanawa was still preparing for that career-defining debut as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, she made her first Mozart disc under Colin Davis: a collection of sacred music, including the Solemn Vespers, KV 339, with its serene setting of ‘Laudate Dominum’, and Exsultate, jubilate. The Countess became the singer’s calling-card, and she repeated the role immediately in San Francisco and at Glyndebourne. The thwarted Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni followed, again under Davis at Covent Garden, before Kiri took her Countess to the Met in New York in February 1976, and sang her first Fiordiligi in Paris, in a production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. The Paris Opera was also the location of Kiri’s debut as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte in 1977. Her leap into superstardom came when she sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana in July 1981…
Mozart was always an important and regular feature of Solti's career as conductor in the opera house and concert hall as well as in the recording studio and also as a pianist, and at the start of his career he participated in performances of Die Zauberflöte at Salzburg under Toscanini in 1937. Solti conducted Die Zauberflöte himself at Salzburg in 1956 to mark the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth and again in 1991 when he made his second recording of the opera. Solti's first recording of Die Zauberflöte was made in Vienna in 1969 and was his first complete Mozart opera recording.
Mozart's comic opera tells the story of Belmonte, a Spanish Nobleman, who arrives at a Turkish palace in search of his beloved Konstanze who has become part of Pasha Selim's harem. Together Belmonte and Konstanze plan her escape. Filmed at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1988, Georg Solti conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House. Deon van der Walt and Inga Nielsen star. “Solti's effervescence and warmth inspire a splendid cast, especially Nielsen's unusually desperate, passionate Constanze and antagonists Moll and Watson. Richly comic and brilliant sung.” - BBC Music Magazine
Unlike the late arrival of Mozart's Turkish opera, "Figaro" was much more of a constant in Solti's long career. Apart from being his debut opera, and a work he conducted at Covent Garden in a new staging in 1963-64, he also led editions in Chicago (1957), and with the Paris Opera in the highly visible Giorgio Strehler production that opened Intendant Rolf Liebermann's bold-new-start regime in March 1973; it was initially presented at the Palace of Versailles and in 1976 toured to the US. Frederica von Stade, the most admired Cherubino of the day, who had sung the role for Solti at Versailles, also appears on his subsequent recording. Made in 1981 with an exceptional cast, it won a Grammy award, perhaps unsurprisingly given that its other major assets include Kiri Te Kanawa's creamy-voiced Countess, Lucia Popp's sprightly Susanna, Thomas Allen's authoritative Count and Samuel Ramey's weighty Figaro. Smaller roles - Jane Berbié's Marcellina, Robert Tear's Basilio and Philip Langridge's Curzio among them - are also handled with tremendous care.