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 Joan Hammond, 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 Glasgow Grand, 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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