Solti: A journey of a Lifetime
The German documentary Solti: Journey of a Lifetime inevitably covers the same journey as the BBC’s Maestro or Mephisto at similar length, but rather less personally – and sublimely germano-centric. Talking heads opine that Solti’s career only soared after Böhm retired and Karajan died, and that he made his previous success entirely through records rather than performances – as if Covent Garden and the Chicago Symphony were mere provincial sidetracks. It does acknowledge that this exile, still affected by German anti-semitism, found a new and accepting home in Britain. And it does provide some remarkable anecdotes the BBC misses – such as Solti becoming great cronies with Theodor Adorno, the cranky (and anti-Wagnerian) guru of Marxist-serialist modernism; they would argue for hours – ‘and chase girls!’ adds Solti cheerfully.
Most significantly, though, this also includes a solid sample of everyday Solti, a robustly Russian-themed Chicago Symphony concert, from the lovely Musorgsky Khovanschina prelude through to Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony and Shostakovich’s First.
What we don’t get from either this documentary or the BBC’s, and should have, is any analysis of the types of music Solti was best and worst at – master of the vast, but also an accomplished chamber player; almost creatively terrible in Holst
and Vaughan Williams but a sympathetic Elgarian. That’s a documentary yet to come.
Michael Scott Rohan