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 and the United States, as a conductor and teacher.


Susskind 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] 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] 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 Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, with which he made more than 200 recordings.[1] In this period Susskind was much involved in theMississippi River Festival, an outdoors crossover concert series organised by the local university. During his seven years with the Saint Louis orchestra he taught at the University of Southern Illinois.

In 1971 Susskind opened the New York City Opera's season with The Makropulos Affair by Leoš Janáček.[citation needed]

Susskind died in Berkeley, California at the age of 66.[1]

Discography (sel.)Edit

Recordings include:

  • Bruch – Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 26 (Yehudi Menuhin, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra)
  • Dvořák – Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (Zara Nelsova, cello; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Dvořák – Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33 (Rudolf Firkušný, piano; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Dvorak - Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 (Ruggiero Ricci, violin; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Dvorak - Romance for Violin & Orchestra in F minor, Op. 11 (Ruggiero Ricci, violin; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Dvorak - Mazurek for Violin & Orchestra in E minor, Op. 49 (Ruggiero Ricci, violin; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Dvorak - Silent Woods (Waldesruhe) for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 68 (Zara Nelsova, cello; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Dvorak - Rondo in G minor for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 68 (Zara Nelsova, cello; Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Holst – The Planets (Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)
  • Mozart – Motet "Exsultate, Jubilate", KV 165 (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Philharmonia Orchestra)
  • Mozart – Piano Concerto No 20, KV 466 (Artur Schnabel, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra)
  • Mozart – Piano Concerto No 24, KV 491 (Artur Schnabel; Philharmonia Orchestra)
  • Mozart – Piano Concerto No 24, KV 491 (Glenn Gould, piano; CBC Symphony Orchestra)
  • Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (Leonard Pennario, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra)
  • Sibelius – Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (Ginette Neveu, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra)
  • Richard Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra (Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra)

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