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William Primrose papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 7908

Scope and Contents

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.


  • 1904-1980


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

Permission to publish material from William Primrose papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

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.


3 oversize boxes (4.75 linear ft.)

20 boxes (10 linear ft.)

6 media boxes (4 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Donated by William Primrose in 1980.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; William Primrose; 1980.


Prominent Violist, (Section IV Primrose International Viola Archive Collection Development Policy January 2011).

Processing Information

Processed; Sara Stout; 2011.

Register of William Primrose papers
Sara Stout
2011 June 30
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States