Opera Scotland

Walter Susskind Suggest updates

Jan Walter Susskind.

Born Prague, 1 May 1913.

Died Berkeley, California, 25 March 1980.

Czech, naturalised British, conductor.

Walter Susskind had an important role in British musical life in the post-war years, making many recordings of orchestral works and operatic arias.  He conducted operatic performances by the Carl Rosa and was also, for a time, musical director of the Scottish Orchestra.

He studied in Prague under Josef Suk then George Szell, becoming Szell's assistant at the German Opera, Prague.  His conducting debut was in a performance of La traviata.

He fled from Prague two days before the German invasion, arriving in Britain as a refugee.  As a pianist, he formed a chamber group, the Czech Trio, gaining many engagements.  In 1942 he conducted a touring production of Sorochintsy Fair, before joining Carl Rosa.

In 1944 he began to make recordings under the direction of Walter Legge - singers he made recordings with included Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Joan Hammond.  He also made many orchestral recordings after the war, when he became a naturalised British citizen.

Conducting posts included:  Musical Director Scottish Orchestra 1946-52;  Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne 1953-55;  Toronto Symphony 1956-65;  St Louis Symphony 1968-75.   Artistic Advisor Cincinnati Symphony 1978-80.

Operatic work included a wide repertoire during his years with Carl Rosa.  During his years in Glasgow he conducted the amateur Glasgow Grand Opera Society,  when they hired the Scottish Orchestra,  and he also conducted some large-scale vocal works, including Mahler's Song of the Earth.

In 1971 he conducted The Makropulos Case at New York City Opera.

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