There was a real feeling of camaraderie and shared aspiration. Yet the (Vienna Philharmonic) orchestra was riddled with anti-Semitism, and Solti’s relations with it were frequently troubled. When he later received the Gold Medal of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde for the Ring and other opera recordings, practically no one from the professors of the orchestra committee turned up. They all had their excuses – teaching, travel or prior engagements.
On the morning of the presentation day, Solti was telephoned in his room at the Imperial Hotel and a woman’s voice said, ‘They are not coming because you are a dirty, Hungarian Jew.’ After receiving the award, as Solti walked along the corridor, the door of the office of Ernst Vobisch, the orchestra’s Chairman, was open, and all the missing committee members were sitting there having coffee. Vienna doesn’t change.
The much-missed John Drummond recalls Georg Solti and 1960s Vienna in his autobiography Tainted by Experience (Faber, ISBN 0571200540). For more on this terrible subject read about a rare performance of a holocaust opera.
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