Skip to main content

Primrose, William, 1904-1982

 Person

Biographical History

William Primrose (1904-1982) was a professional violist who performed with groups in England and the United States, and later taught at several universities, including Brigham Young University.

John Primrose, William's father, taught violin and gave William his start when he was four years old. By age twelve he had made public appearances. When William was about fifteen, the family moved to London where Primrose attended the Guildhall School of Music and began to study violin under Max Mossel and received a gold medal, the Guildhall's highest honor, at his 1924 graduation. He then went on to study with Eugene Ysaÿe who encouraged him to switch to the viola which Primrose did in 1930. He became the violist of the London String Quartet where he worked with Warwick Evans.

William was invited to play viola as a member of the NBC Symphony orchestra under Arturo Toscanini but was never the symphony's principal violist. During his tenure with NBC, Primrose made several appearances with the symphony as a viola soloist, and in 1939 he formed the Primrose Quartet. In 1953, in recognition of his musical achievements, Primrose was granted the title of Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Besides enjoying a solo career, Primrose taught at the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, the Toho School, Juilliard, the Eastman School of Music, and Brigham Young University. Primrose also wrote or contributed to four important pedagogical publications: Art and Practice of Scale Playing (Mills, 1954), Technique Is Memory (Oxford University Press, 1960), Violin and Viola (with Yehudi Menuhin and Denis Stevens; Schirmer, 1976), and Playing the Viola (Oxford University Press, 1988).

Primrose was diagnosed with cancer in 1977 and died from it in 1982 in Provo, Utah.

Citation:
Music.lib.byu.edu, July 2011: Primrose International Viola Archive website (John Primrose taught violin; gave William his start at four years old; at age twelve made public appearances; at fifteen family moved to London; Primrose attended Guildhall School of Music; studied violin under Max Mossel and received a gold medal, the Guildhall's highest honor; went on to study with Eugene Ysaÿe who encouraged him to switch to the viola; Primrose did in 1930; became the violist of the London String Quartet where he worked with Warwick Evans; invited to play viola as a member of the NBC Symphony orchestra under Arturo Toscanini; never the symphony's principal violist; made several appearances with the symphony as a viola soloist; in 1939 formed the Primrose Quartet; in 1953, was granted the title of Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II; taught at the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, the Toho School, Juilliard, the Eastman School of Music and Brigham Young University; also wrote or contributed to four important pedagogical publications: Art and Practice of Scale Playing (Mills, 1954), Technique Is Memory (Oxford University Press, 1960), Violin and Viola (with Yehudi Menuhin and Denis Stevens; Schirmer, 1976), and Playing the Viola (Oxford University Press, 1988); diagnosed with cancer in 1977; d. from it in 1982 in Provo, Utah)

Found in 11 Collections and/or Records:

William Primrose photographs

 Series
Identifier: MSS 7908 Series 3
Scope and Contents From the Collection:

Collection contains papers from the violist Willam Primrose, beginning with his birth certificate in 1904. Includes framed photographs, memorabilia, correspondence related to the viola throughout his life, and other materials spanning the years of 1904-1982.

Dates: 1904-1980

Additional filters:

Type
Archival Object 8
Collection 3
 
Subject
Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences 10
Music 10
Violists 9
Correspondence 6
Photographs 5