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Swarowsky was born in Budapest, Hungary. He studied the art of conducting under Felix Weingartner and Richard Strauss. His teachers in musical theory included Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern.
He became a professor of conducting at the Vienna Music Academy. His many conducting students included Claudio Abbado, Alexander Alexeev, Zubin Mehta, Leonid Nikolaev, Paul Angerer, Ádám and Iván Fischer, Jesús López-Cobos, Gustav Meier, Miltiades Caridis, Aleksandr Alekseyev, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Gianluigi Gelmetti, Brian Jackson, Alfred Prinz, Bryan Fairfax, James Allen Gähres, Albert Rosen, Mariss Jansons and Bruno Weil. Swarowsky's lectures and essays were collected into the publication Wahrung der Gestalt (Keeping Shape), which today serves as an encyclopaedia for performance and conducting. From 1957 to 1959 he was chief conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra (now the Royal Scottish N.O.).
- Slonimsky, N.; Kuhn, L., eds. (2001). Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. 6. New York: Schirmer. p. 3551.,
- Jiří Vysloužil, Liner notes, Mahler Symphony No 4 Released by Supraphon, 1988
- Swarowsky, Hans; Huss, Manfred (1979). Wahrung der Gestalt: Schriften über Werk u. Wiedergabe, Stil u. Interpretation in d. Musik. Vienna: Universal Edition. ISBN 3-7024-0138-5.
- Hans Swarowsky at AllMusic
- Literature by and about Hans Swarowsky in the German National Library catalogue
- Hans Swarowsky at the Bach Cantatas Website
- Hans Swarowsky on IMDb
- Essay by Christopher Howell on Hans Swarowsky's life and recordings at the MusicWeb International Website
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