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Global Fascinations and Sophistications

William Primrose


Why is the viola player looked upon as the wallflower compared to the violinist or cellist? In orchestral terms, the viola -- facing the conductor or to his immediate right -- projects all those inner colours so essential to composer and interpreter alike, which bring poetic eloquence and realization to the whole performance. In chamber music, if the violist is sub-standard, you pack up and go home.

William Primrose - the 1947 RCA recordings (c) 2000 Biddulph Recordings

Apart from Lionel Tertis, who we are told was a difficult man, but a great player and protagonist for his instrument, no one did more to place the viola firmly on the musical map than William Primrose. 'A New Sound Sensation' read the hoardings for his Carnegie Hall appearance on 16 October 1946. In the 1950s, when Primrose performed Walton's Concerto at the Royal Albert Hall, I was certainly aware of his tonal projection and platform presence, his sonorous tones enriched by tapestries of autumnal shadings reaching my balcony seat and beyond to the enormous dome above my head. With this in mind, Biddulph, aided by Tully Potter's informative liner notes, have risen to the challenge with a series of re-issues, the latest devoted to 1947 recordings for RCA with the sensitive David Stimer at the piano.

The famous Air from Bach's Third Suite takes on new nobility, giving added strength and spiritual depth to the rising and dying phrases. The Haydn Divertimento, next, is a Piatigorsky arrangement of two Baryton Trios written for Prince Esterhazy, and the so-called 'Notturno' by Beethoven is the composer's transcription of his Serenade for string trio plus some of Primrose's 're-workings'. Thereafter we have a 'travelling tour' of short pieces: Mendelssohn's May Breezes (one of the Songs without Words), Tchaikovsky's famous Andante cantabile, Saint-Saëns' The Swan, Kreisler's Schön Rosmarin & Liebesleid, and some unusual items -- Aprie (still unpublished) by the soloist's close friend Boris Myronoff, two Milhaud pieces -- Lema and Ipanema, and Heifetz arrangements of Vale's Ao pé da fogueira and Aguirre's Huella. The 'fun' item comes at the end: Sarasateana -- four dance sequences by the eminent Sarasate entitled Tango [listen -- track 22, 1:52-2:37], Polo, Malaguena and Zapateado, arranged by Efrem Zimbalist.

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Copyright © 27 December 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK







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