David's Review Corner
, December 2011
Born into a musical family in Scotland in 1904, William Primrose became the heir to the legendary Lionel Tertis as the world’s leading exponent of the viola. Like his father before him he had started out as a violinist with a successful career, but at twenty-two his famous mentor, Eugène Ysaÿe, suggested, in one of his teaching sessions, that Primrose should also study the viola. For a time he played both instruments, but it became obvious where his natural gifts resided. He had embarked on a solo career when he became a member of Tocannini’s newly formed NBC Symphony in New York, and remained there for four years, eventually deciding to devote himself to a solo career in 1941. There followed twenty years when his supremacy on the instrument was unchallenged, a heart attack at the age of fifty-nine bringing that to an untimely end, though he was to live on to the age of seventy-eight. He was only able to enjoy the benefits of the LP era for a short time, most of his recordings predating that time. The present release spans twenty years from 1927, and, as with all great performers of his time, he aimed at maximising disc sales by remaining in the field of popular ‘lollypops’. So we have the predictable Liebesfreud and Liebeslied from Kreisler, Benjamin’s Jamaican Rumba, Tchaikovsky’s None but the Lonely Heart, Dvořák’s Humoresque and the traditional Irish melody Londonderry Air. They are all played with that silvery tone and immaculate intonation, but you go to track 16 to hear his incredible dexterity in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Solfeggietto. The transfers are immaculate from source discs in superb condition.