Valerie Solti (née Pitts) led an extraordinary and fascinating life. As a talented television presenter and experienced leader in the artistic world, Valerie was a fountain of knowledge, experience, and guidance for all of us at the Solti Accademia. On a personal level, she was a beloved and wonderful friend whose presence will be profoundly missed.
Valerie met Georg Solti in September of 1964 when she was a television presenter at the BBC. Following a series of unexpected circumstances, she one day found herself on the way to the Savoy Hotel in London to interview Maestro Solti, whom she had never met before. In a 2012 article in The Guardian, she recalls:
“When I arrived at the Savoy the film crew were becoming agitated as there was no sign of Solti. The receptionist told me that Dr Solti was in his room. I went up in a lift…found the room, knocked on the door and a guttural voice said: ‘What do you want?’ I said I was from the BBC, and suddenly the door flew open and there he was, wrapped up in steaming towels. ‘My dear, I’m so sorry,’ he said. ‘I forgot. Do you think you could find my socks?’ And that’s how it all began. I was bewitched – captivated – by this man, and logic and pragmatism just flew out of the window. It was a coup de foudre.”
Only a few years after this encounter, Valerie and Georg were married. With Valerie by his side, Maestro Solti continued his immensely successful career as one of the twentieth century’s most famous conductors and classical musicians. Their home for much of the year was in London. However, the Solti family also kept a summer home – an extraordinarily beautiful house just outside of Castiglione della Pescaia in Tuscany, a town where the Solti Accademia still runs its course for singers to this day.
After Georg Solti’s sudden death in 1997, it was Valerie who picked up the mantle. Valerie spent the rest of her life creating, leading, and supporting projects that embodied the ethos of her late husband. She played a vital role in the creation and/or leadership of so many organizations that were indelibly connected to Maestro Solti, including the Solti Foundations (both in the EU and the USA), the Solti International Conducting Competition, the Solti Conducting Awards, the World Orchestra for Peace, the Mariinsky Theatre/Orchestra, and of course, the Georg Solti Accademia.
Valerie Solti co-founded the Georg Solti Accademia in 2004 with Candice Wood (GSA Executive Director) and Jonathan Papp (GSA Artistic Director). From the beginning, she played a vital role in bringing some of the world’s brilliant musicians and industry figures to our team. Valerie, who also served as Chair of our Board, was immensely involved in the activities of the Accademia, and in keeping the vision of Maestro Solti alive through the work that we do. About the organisation, she said:
“I am delighted that the young singers and pianists of the Solti Accademia have the opportunity to enjoy the place my husband loved so much. Italy and Castiglione della Pescaia were very important to him. His dream was to hold masterclasses there to hand on to future generations what it was that he had learned from the masters who had influenced his life and work. So, when Jonathan Papp and Candice Wood approached me to co-found the Georg Solti Accademia with them, I embraced the idea. Solti would be thrilled with the Accademia. He loved working with young people. He would see this institution as his whole ethos- his whole idea.
It’s very easy to have museums or artifacts of people, but I feel it is much more effective to continue, if you can, the work they were doing. I feel that through the Solti Accademia, my husband lives on.”
Now, as we remember our beloved friend Valerie, we can make one promise to her, and to each of you:
All of us at the Solti Accademia will take up her mantel and continue the work that we did together. We do this not only to allow Maestro Solti to live on, but to give Valerie eternal life too.
Video Below: Lady Solti at the Solti Villa in Castiglione della Pescaia, discussing the Accademia and her husband.