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Solti: Journey of a Lifetime: A film by Georg Wübbolt (2012) [52.00]
Bonus Concert [54.00]: Mussorgsky Prelude to Khovanshchina; Prokofiev Classical Symphony; Shostakovich Symphony No.1: Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1977)
Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Picture Format: 16:9 (Documentary), 4:3 (Bonus Concert), 1080i
Region: A,B,C
Documentary Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish and Korean
ARTE/UNITEL CLASSICA 711 804 [106:00]

This disc contains two items, the documentary film and the so-called 'bonus' which is a concert by the CSO conducted by Solti and recorded in the Chicago Orchestra Hall in October 1977.
 
The documentary is the reason to purchase this Blu-ray so it will be dealt with first. It is mainly the story of his life and growing reputation told in archive film and through interview clips with Solti himself, speaking in German, plus family and professional colleagues such as his second wife Valerie Solti, conductor Valery Gergiev and theatre director Sir Peter Jonas.
 
Contributions are intelligent and interesting and there is thankfully little by way of padding. There is some linking narration and the occasional musical extract. The archive film is sometimes in the wrong aspect ratio which seems strange for an otherwise very professional production. The onscreen titling is largely very clear and appropriate except for the members of the 'Vienna Phil. Orchestra' whose truncated appellation seems completely unnecessary when the full name would fit. The one questionable aspect of his story as told here is the assumption that the Chicago years were somehow better than the rest and that prior to him the CSO was not a very significant orchestra. 'What about the 'minor' figure of Fritz Reiner who led them in the 1950s and 1960s?' I found myself asking the screen. A UK viewer may also ask what happened to all those superb recordings and concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra, of which there is no mention. Despite this I found the 52 minutes of this film compulsive viewing and was only sorry there wasn't more of it.
 
The bonus concert is a superfluous add-on because it is oddly uninteresting musically and looks and sounds what it is, a rather old TV film. The performances are efficient but not one of these performances couldn't be bettered elsewhere. The main work, Shostakovich's 1st Symphony, comes over as brisk and rather literal. What is left is a lengthy opportunity to watch Solti at work, the which is not half as interesting as watching him in rehearsal in the documentary film.
 
The insert has a readable short essay on Solti's life and career by James Jolly.

Dave Billinge

Experience Classicsonline