On January 29, 1988, Musical America announced that Sir Georg Solti would be their Musician of the Year. Chicago-based critic Thomas Willis was invited to write the article for the cover story.

For the article, Willis spoke with Sir Georg—who had just celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday—about the focus of his energies: “I challenge [the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra] and they challenge me. Together we can take musical risks I once believed impossible—in phrasing, dynamics, balances. And they respond, to the smallest detail. I believe that only through the micro comes the macro, you know, and I am terribly self-critical. Not negatively, but positively—how to make it better.

“It is essential that we leave a document for the next generation, and not only for the next generation but for generations to come. I am not a music culture pessimist. I don’t believe what you read every day in the papers, that this is the end of the symphony orchestra, the end of classical music, even the end of music. I don’t believe that. Great music and great performance will always move you.”

And looking back on his career? “I have worked very hard for each step in my life. Many people have done it much quicker, but nothing came easily to me. I don’t mind, because that’s the way it has to be done. You have to fight, to get it the hard way, because doing it the hard way is the only way you can develop. I am very grateful for the hardness, I wouldn’t change it. . . . I have no unfulfilled ambitions to bite me or make me restless. I relish my freedom to insist on the right working conditions and I am free of envy. Although I’m far from contented with my work, I am happy with my lot. My only desire is to go on doing what I’m doing now—but to do it better all the time.”

The complete article is available here.