The German conductor, Wilhelm Schüchter, studied piano at the Hochschule für Musik Köln, composition with Philipp Jarnach, and orchestral conducting with Hermann Abendroth.
Wilhelm Schüchter made his conducting debut at the Landestheater Coburg in 1937 with Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. His first major appointment came that same year, as conductor at the Mainfranken Theater Würzburg, where he stayed for three years (1937-1940). In 1940 he was appointed conductor at the Stadttheater Aachen a post he held for two years, working under Herbert von Karajan. He also conducted at the Berlin Städitsche Oper Berlin (1942-1943). In 1943 he was first Kapellmeister of the Theater am Nollendorfplatz in Berlin. Following the Allied victory and the reorganization of German cultural life, in 1947 Schuchter joined the Sinfonieorchester von Radio Hamburg (in 1956 named NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg) as a conductor and deputy to Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, a post he held until 1957. From 1953 to 1955 he was also Principal Conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Herford.
In 1958, Wilhelm Schüchter took a three-year appointment as the chief conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo (1958-1961) and after his return to Germany in 1962, he was made Generalmusikdirektor of the Dortmunder Philharmoniker. It was in this post, in just three years, that Schuchter achieved fame in Germany, raising the musical standards in Dortmund so high that he was promoted in 1965 to Artistic Director and general manager of the Dortmund State Opera. He improved the quality of the orchestra and opened the new opera house with a performance of Der Rosenkavalier of Strauss, with Elisabeth Grümmer as Marschallin, Teresa Żylis-Gara as Octavian and Kurt Böhme as Ochs. In 1967 he conducted the premiere of the opera Eli by Walter Steffens after the drama of Nelly Sachs, a commission of the city of Dortmund. Schüchter remained in this position for the rest of his life and was acclaimed for the excellence of the productions mounted by the company and its overall rise to prominence within Germany. His Wagnerian performances in particular were singled out for praise by critics.
Wilhelm Schüchterís major recording career began in the early 1950ís, principally for EMI during the late 78 rpm and early LP era. In 1954 he conducted recordings of George Frideric Handel's organ concertos with Geraint Jones and the Philharmonia Orchestra. With the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, he recorded highlights - in an era when complete opera recordings were rare, typically sung in German by notable soloists such as Elisabeth Grümmer and Erika Köth. These included excerpts from W.A. Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, and The Abduction From the Seraglio; Rossini's The Barber of Seville; Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann; Puccini's La bohème; and Georges Bizet's Carmen, among other operas. With the Berliner Philharmoniker, he recorded excerpts from Richard Strauss' Rosenkavalier and Johann Strauss' Fledermaus. These were all polished recordings, well-representing key portions of the operas involved. As an orchestral conductor, Schuchter recorded Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, Dvorák's Symphony No. 9, Smetana's The Moldau, and Grieg's Peer Gynt.
Wilhelm Schuchterís major activities and his most significant legacy, however, were in the operatic field. In 1951 he recorded Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer with Hans Hotter in the title role, Kurt Böhme as Daland, Helene Werth as Senta, Bernd Aldenhoff as Erik, Res Fischer as Mary and Helmut Krebs as Steuermann, with NDR Sinfonieorchester und Chor Hamburg. In 1953, Schuchter conducted EMI's first recording of a complete version of Wagner's Lohengrin with his NDR Sinfonieorchester und Chor Hamburg and Rudolf Schock in the title role, Gottlob Frick as King Heinrich, Maud Cunitz as Elsa, Josef Metternich as Friedrich, and Margarete Klose as Ortrud. This performance, reissued on compact disc in 1995 by EMI on its References historical line, remains one of the most finely crafted recordings of the opera ever laid down and is competitive with all subsequent stereo and digital recordings. The singing has a warmth and power that resounds more than 40 years later and the playing is extraordinary, a match for any orchestra in the world. Moreover, the sound - despite being limited to mono - is extraordinary for its era, being both rich and close. In 1953 he conducted Puccini's Tosca, sung in German by Carla Martinis in the title role, Schock as Cavaradossi, and Josef Metternich as Scarpia. In 1955 he recorded Smetana's opera The Bartered Bride with the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, the chorus of the Landestheater Hannover, Erna Berger, Schock, Frick, Hans-Hermann Nissen, Christa Ludwig, Theodor Schlott and Marga Höffgen. In 1955 he also recorded Der Rosenkavalier with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Leonie Rysanek as Marschallin, Elisabeth Grümmer as Octavian, Erika Köth as Sophie, Gustav Neidlinger as Ochs, Sieglinde Wagner as Annina and Josef Traxel as the singer.
In the 1960ís Wilhelm Schuchter recorded excerpts of operas, Flotow's Martha, Lortzing's Undine (with Lisa Otto) and Der Wildschütz, and Weber's Oberon with Jess Thomas as Hüon and Ingrid Bjoner as Rezia. With the Deutsche Oper Berlin he recorded excerpts of Charles Gounod's Margarete (with Hilde Güden), Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana with Chorus & Orchestra of the Städtische Oper Berlin, Leonie Rysanek; Rudolf Schock and Josef Metternich, and Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor with Erika Köth, Frick and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He also conducted radio productions, namely for the NDR and the WDR.
Wilhelm Schuchter was one of those prodigiously talented German conductors who had the misfortune to live in a time filled with geniuses at the podium: Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, Hermann Abendroth, Herbert von Karajan, Clemens Krauss, Karl Böhm, Hans Knappertsbusch, Rudolf Kempe, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, and Otto Klemperer. In such company, he never had a chance to move into the forefront of his profession outside of Germany. Despite his lack of international success, however, Schuchter managed to leave behind one major recording Lohengrin that deserves to be a part of any serious Wagner collection. He was among the first generation of conductors in Germany who understood the use of the orchestra in the studio and this is reflected in his recordings. In contrast to Wilhelm Furtwängler or Hans Knappertsbusch, he saw the intrinsic value of recording and he paid special attention to the spaciousness and opulence of the sound he achieved. When working with sympathetic producers and engineers, as on his Lohengrin, the results were extraordinary.