The following tribute was written and shared by Frank Villella, board member of the Solti Foundation U.S. and Director, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association
Lady Valerie Solti passed away on March 31, 2021, at home in London. She was eighty-three.
Born in Leeds, England on August 19, 1937, Valerie Pitts studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She was an actress before going to work for television in the 1960s, first at Granada, and later at the BBC, presenting and producing many programs. As a freelance broadcaster and writer, she later contributed to BBC Radio 3, BBC Music Magazine, Classic FM, Classic FM Magazine, LBC in the United Kingdom, and WFMT and WTTW in the United States.
In 1964, she was an arts journalist for the BBC magazine program Town and Around when she met Georg Solti, then music director at London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden. They married on November 11, 1967.
In 1969, Georg Solti became the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s eighth music director. His twenty-two-year tenure was marked by the Orchestra’s first tour to Europe in 1971, dozens of award-winning recordings, and numerous trips to Carnegie Hall. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in March 1972. Following the centennial season, Solti became music director laureate in 1991, continuing his association with the Orchestra during several weeks each year in concerts and recordings until his death on September 5, 1997.
Lady Solti also was a frequent presence onstage, performing as narrator for children’s concerts, as well as hosting the centennial gala concert on October 6, 1990, along with the Orchestra Hall centennial concert on December 14, 2004.
Together with her daughters, Valerie Solti created The Solti Foundation to assist young professional musicians at the start of their careers, and she was founder and chairperson of the Georg Solti Accademia and patron of the World Orchestra for Peace. She was an honorary trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and honorary chair of the Solti Foundation US.
Lady Solti is survived by her daughters Gabrielle (Frederic Dupas) and Claudia (Gary Ross) and grandchildren George, Amelie, Luna, and Mo.