Jump to content

Walter Susskind

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Walter Susskind (1950)

Jan Walter Susskind (1 May 1913 – 25 March 1980) was a Czech-born British conductor, teacher and pianist. He began his career in his native Prague and travelled to London in March 1939 when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. He worked for substantial periods in Australia, Canada and the United States, as a conductor and teacher.


Süsskind was born in Prague.[1] His father was a Viennese music critic and his Czech mother was a piano teacher.[2] At the State Conservatorium he studied under the composer Josef Suk, the son-in-law of Dvořák.[2] He later studied conducting under George Szell,[2] and became Szell's assistant at the German Opera, Prague, making his conducting debut there with La traviata;[1] early in his career, he was often known as H. W. Süsskind (H for Hans or Hanuš).[citation needed]

Susskind was giving a piano recital in Amsterdam in March 1939 when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, and his mother advised him not to return home. (She was later interned in Theresienstadt but survived the war).[2] With the help of a British journalist and consular officials, he arrived in Britain as a refugee.[2] He formed the Czech Trio, a chamber ensemble in which he was the pianist. Encouraged by Jan Masaryk, the Czech ambassador in London, the trio obtained many engagements.[2]

In 1942 Susskind joined the Carl Rosa Opera Company as a conductor, working with singers such as Heddle Nash and Joan Hammond,[1][2] and married (1943-1953) the British cellist Eleanor Catherine Warren.[3] In 1944 he made his first recording for Walter Legge of EMI, conducting Liu's arias from Turandot with Hammond.[2]

After the war, Susskind became a naturalised British citizen, and though he spent much of his subsequent career outside Britain, he said he would never dream of giving up his British citizenship.[2]

Susskind's first appointment as musical director was to the Scottish Orchestra, where he served from 1946 to 1952.[1] He and his wife divorced in 1953.[3] From 1953 to 1955 he was the conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (then known as the Victorian Symphony Orchestra).[1] After free-lancing in Israel and South America he was appointed to head the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) from 1956 to 1965.[1][2]

In 1960 he founded the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.[1] While with the TSO he taught conducting at The Royal Conservatory of Music where among his pupils were Milton Barnes and Rudy Toth.[citation needed]

From 1968 to 1975 he was conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra with which he made more than 200 recordings.[1] During his seven-year tenure with St. Louis, he taught across the Mississippi River at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He was also closely involved with the Mississippi River Festival, an annually recurring outdoors crossover concert series organised by the local university.

Susskind served as artistic advisor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1978 until his death in 1980.

On May 3, 1971, Susskind returned to the New York City Opera to conduct Leoš Janáček's Makropulos Case.[4]

Susskind died in Berkeley, California, at the age of 66.[1] His personal archives document his career as a conductor, piano accompanist and avant-garde composer. The BBC Radio 3 program Music Matters broadcast 29 Jan. 2022 an interview with Susskind's widow Janis, in the process of transferring these materials to the Exilarte Centre, University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna.[5]

Discography (selection)[edit]

External audio
audio icon You may hear Walter Susskind with Glenn Gould and the CBC Symphony Orchestra in:
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 in 1962
Here on Archive.org

Recordings include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bernas, Richard and Ruth B Hilton. "Susskind, Walter", Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 June 2014 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Walter Susskind", Gramophone, April 1972, pp. 1693–1694
  3. ^ a b "Eleanor Warren obituary", The Daily Telegraph, 10 October 2005. Accessed 6 October 2019.
  4. ^ Freed, Richard (6 April 1980). "Walter Susskind's Life in Music". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ "Music Matters - Andreas Ottensamer, Sarah Kirby, Walter Susskind - BBC Sounds".

External links[edit]