After a surprise 80th birthday party hosted by Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, Georg Solti thanked the multinational ensemble that had just performed and wondered aloud why musicians from many different countries can play together in harmony, while international diplomats cannot even agree on the crucial issue of world peace.
Inspired by this notion, his wife, Valerie Solti, hatched a plan with Leia Maria Boutros-Ghali, the wife of the then United Nations Secretary-General, to amass an orchestra comprising players from all over the world, and to have this orchestra perform for the U.N.’s 50th anniversary in 1995.
Dubbed the World Orchestra for Peace, the ensemble—79 musicians from 24 countries—debuted in Geneva in July of that year, with Solti at the podium, to great critical acclaim. The maestro did not live to preside over another of their performances, but the orchestra lives on, materializing whenever conditions permit.
This according to “The conductor with an ear for peace” by Harvey Sachs (The New York times 14 October 2012, p. AR11). Today is Solti’s 100th birthday! Below, he conducts the World Orchestra for Peace in Rossini’s overture to Guillaume Tell.