Walter Susskind

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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 fled to Britain when Germany invaded the city in 1939. 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 fled Prague on 13 March 1939, two days before the German invasion.[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] The following year he married 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]

Discography (selection)[edit]

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.

External links[edit]