Conductor and violinist

Born November 30, 1939;

Died June 14, 2015

Walter Weller, who has died of cancer aged 75, was the principal conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) for five years between 1991 and 1996 and had been its conductor emeritus since then.

In Scotland, he was the doyen of Viennese conductors, with Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and Richard Strauss among his specialities. Back home in Vienna, his position seemed less secure and he never held a long-term appointment with a major Austrian orchestra.

After his appointment as the RSNO's music director in 1992, he did not often step outside the Austro-German classical mainstream with which he was closely associated, although he did reveal, from time to time, an impressive penchant for Russian symphonies. Above all, he remained devoted to the tried-and-trusted overture-concerto-symphony format.

Yet his roots were thoroughly Viennese. The son of a violinist in the Vienna Philharmonic, he studied at the Vienna Hochschule fur Musik before himself joining the Vienna Philharmonic as a violinist in 1956, when he was 17 years old, and rising within five years to the role of leader, which he shared with the great Willi Boskovsky.

It was an appointment (one of the most important in Austrian music) he held until 1964, side by side with the leadership of the Vienna State Opera orchestra and of his own Weller String Quartet, with which he toured Europe, America and Asia, winning fame for a unified beauty of tone and some fine Mozart recordings.

But by 1966, dissatisfied with his work as an instrumentalist, he had begun his transition to conducting, with appearances at the Vienna Volksoper and, in 1971, his appointment as Generalmusikdirector at Duisberg in northern Germany.

His first Scottish appearance came in 1975 with a sensational performance of Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony, an emotionally complicated masterpiece then almost unknown in Scotland, followed by successful guest appearances with Scottish Opera in revivals of its established productions of Fidelio and Der Rosenkavalier. It was a relationship which, thereafter, unfortunately failed to thrive.

In 1977 he succeeded Sir Charles Groves as principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, which led soon afterwards to a similar post with the Royal Philharmonic in London, during Peter Diamand's brief reign as administrator. But the SNO, which became the RSNO at the time of Weller's appointment, continued to have its eye on him, asking him back on eight occasions after his memorable Prokofiev performance, then inviting him to be music director after the death of his predecessor Bryden Thomson.

Though there were only two obvious contenders for the job - the other was the Russian Alexander Lazarev, who won it five years later - Weller was much favoured by the players and management, who wanted someone with the right credentials to renovate the mainstream repertoire from Mozart to Richard Strauss, though probably not beyond.

He cultivated string tone that was beautifully textured and warmly built on a solid bedrock of basses - his "signature" sound, as he himself described it, with first and second violins massed on his left, cellos and basses together on the right, and the violas (into which, as one critic piquantly observed, he liked to "dip his hands") in front of him. Though the results, as in the performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony with which he made his debut in Glasgow's new concert hall, could make you feel as if you had been run over by a train, they exuded solid Viennese know-how.

Although he appeared as guest conductor of most of the world's great international orchestras, Weller's actual appointments were generally with less famous ones. On leaving the RSNO in 1996, he became the orchestra's conductor emeritus for life and was honoured by the Bank of Scotland with his face on a £50 note.

After switching to Switzerland for a spell as music director of the Basel Opera, he moved to Spain as associate director of the Orchestra of Valencia, to Brussels as music director of the National Orchestra of Belgium, and to Norway as honorary conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra.

His operatic achievements included The Flying Dutchman at La Scala, Milan. He also conducted Wagner's early masterpiece for English National Opera and in a much-admired concert performance with the RSNO. He had visited South Korea in May to conduct the Seoul Philharmonic.

On his death, a spokesman for the RSNO said Walter Weller had been due to return to Scotland to celebrate the organisation's 125th anniversary next year. "He was a fantastic musician," said the spokesman. "His Weller string quartets are some of the best in the world."

He had not performed for the RSNO for a number of years, but was famous among his colleagues at the orchestra for always insisting on staying in the same room of the same hotel - the Hilton in Great Western Road - whenever he visited Glasgow. "It became known among the staff there as the Weller Suite," said the spokesman.

In 1966 he married Elisabeth Samolyi, with whom he had a son. His enthusiasms included toy trains and Biedermeier furniture. He is survived by his wife and their son.