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  • The jacket says Beethoven. But as he waits for the photographer to set up, what’s he hearing?

During his years in Chicago leading the CSO, I knew exactly what question I’d ask Georg Solti if I had the chance. “If someone stopped you on the street,” I’d say to him, “and said ‘What music, right now, is running through your head?’ would you always have an answer?”

And if he said “yes,” or “most of the time,” I’d ask Solti to describe the music. A tricky passage from the coming weekend’s program? Or maybe a cheap tune he remembered from his high school days in Budapest?

Did Solti always have the upper hand on the music that no one heard but himself? Could he always control what it was? Or was he like the rest of us? Were there triggers he was powerless to control that shooed away the masters in favor of some inane Hungarian novelty from his childhood? Did he sometimes wonder if he was crazy?