This is a huge treat for classical music lovers. But I also think that for those who aren't, at the very least the first 20 minutes or so of this video may well still be fascinating. It's a video that the Chicago Symphony posted on their new CSOtv website of Sir Georg Solti conducting the orchestra in 1989 playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I believe this may have aired originally on PBS Great Performances. I don’t know if this video will only be up during the holiday weekend or longer. I suspect the latter, but no guarantees
What's important to add – this isn’t just Solti conducting Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. They call it “Revisited,” and the video begins with over 20 minutes of Solti talking about how and why he chose to interpret the performance this new way, which is much more “violent” than usual, but which -- after years of studying it -- he believes is close to what Beethoven wanted, and that is intercut with extensive clips of him rehearsing the orchestra to get what he wants. Only after that do they have the full piece. The whole thing is wonderful but it's that first 20 minutes that's riveting. So, you really get an idea what a conductor does, better than almost anything I’ve seen – and you also see why Solti and the CSO were considered so great together.
For those who only want to see and hear the symphony itself, you can jump to the 22:30 mark. Any who just want to see the documentary part, it runs...well, 22-and-a-half minutes. But you probably figured that out.
Because it's only on the CSOtv website, I can't embed it on these pages, but you can watch it here.
By the way, speaking of Solti and his deep connection to the Chicago Symphony brings up a fond memory. Back in 1997, I was home visiting Chicago and remember going to a CSO concert with my mother to what was supposed to have been Solti's 1,000th concert with the orchestra – but he’d passed away a few weeks earlier (having done 999 concerts). They still went ahead with the scheduled festivities, but it was more a memorial than gala celebration.
After the concert, they still had the planned reception for invited guests. We found this out as we were leaving and passed by a large, glass-enclosed conference room, and my mother asked the security guard at the door what it was for. Now, for this tale to have any meaning, you must understand that my mother was 74 at the time, tiny (about 5’-2” 90 pounds), had had polio and was deeply Midwestern polite, she never swore, always went by decorum, tried to be nice to everyone, if you or she or anyone did something rude, even accidentally, it really bothered her, and she was a full-believer in apologies – the point being that she was profoundly sweet, on the frail side, and very lowkey -- but when she found out about the reception she insisted to me on getting inside. When I explained that it just didn't seem possible, she stood her ground. (My joke about her -- and I even said it to her -- was she was someone who wouldn't take "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no" for an answer. And the reason she was so insistent on getting inside was because, as she said -- I want to see Lady Solti.” So...we actually sneaked it. Somehow. My recollection was that the security wasn’t very tight, to say the least, but thankfully not because it made her SO happy that she did get to see Lady Solti.
I never would have imagined that she’d have wanted to sneak into anything. But she did. So, that’s what convinced me that it must me done.