Sir Georg Solti, KBE (pronounced /ˈdʒɔrdʒ ˈʃɒlti/; 21 October 1912 – 5 September 1997) was a Hungarian-British orchestral and operatic conductor. He holds the record for having received the most Grammy Awards, having personally won 31, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century.
Solti was born György Stern (Hungarian: Stern György) in Budapest, Hungary to a Jewish family; his parents were Móric(z) Stern and Teréz Rosenbaum. His cousin was László Moholy-Nagy, the Jewish-Hungarian painter and photographer, who taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau and co-founded the New Bauhaus in Chicago. His father Germanized the name György to Georg and changed his family name to Solti, to shield them from antisemitism.
He learned the piano but at age 14 heard Erich Kleiber conduct Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and he decided immediately he wanted to be a conductor. He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, under Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Leo Weiner and Ernst von Dohnanyi. By 1935 he was gaining recognition as a conductor, and made his debut at the Budapest Opera on 11 March 1938 with The Marriage of Figaro, the first time an unconverted Jew had ever conducted there. It was also Solti's last performance there. On that very day, Hitler annexed Austria, and anti-semitism became rife in Hungary under Admiral Miklós Horthy's regime. In 1939, with German invasion imminent, he fled Hungary because of his Jewish ancestry, and moved to Switzerland, where he continued a career as a pianist and won the Geneva International Piano Competition, but he had limited opportunities to develop his conducting. Unfortunately, he never saw his father again.