Calling all violists. William Primrose was born today – August 23 – in 1903.


William Primrose  CBE (23 August 1904 – 1 May 1982) was a Scottish violist and teacher.

Primrose was born in Glasgow and studied violin initially. In 1919 he moved to study at the then Guildhall School of Music in London.[1] From there he moved to Belgium to study under Eugène Ysaÿe who encouraged him to take up the viola instead. In 1930, he joined Warwick Evans, John Pennington, and Thomas Petre as the violist in the London String Quartet. The group dissolved in 1935. In 1937, he began playing in the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. When it was rumored that Toscanini would leave the Symphony in 1941, Primrose resigned. His career as a soloist took off when he started touring with Richard Crooks. He later signed with Arthur Judson, an influential concert manager. In 1946, he was the soloist in the first recording of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy.

Later in his life, Primrose became a noted teacher, writing several books on viola playing and teaching widely in Japan, Australia (where Richard Tognetti was one of his students)[3] and the USA, occasionally at the University of Southern California (with Jascha Heifetz), the Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. One of his notable students was Canadian violinist Albert Pratz. In 1972, he published his memoirs, A Walk on the North Side.

The Primrose International Viola Competition, created in 1979 in honor of William Primrose, was the first international music competition for viola players.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve never heard of him, thanks 🙂

  2. I guess it’s a viola thing.

  3. I had not heard of Primrose. I learned so much from your post. This is one reason I love reading blogs. Everyone has special interests that add to my personal education.

  4. Oh, and thanks for featuring my post. 🙂

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