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Classicsonline Home » Artists » » Primrose, William

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William Primrose (1904 - 1982)


Primrose was born on 23 August 1904 in Glasgow, the son of John Primrose, orchestral violinist and violist and connoisseur of string playing and instruments—Willie (or Bill as he became known) used his father’s 1735 Nicolò Gagliano in his early career. There was music on his mother’s side, too: her brother Samuel Whiteside was a distinguished Glaswegian violinist who played several other instruments, but sadly he was drowned when Willie was very young. The lad began violin lessons at four with Camillo Ritter, a pupil of Joachim, Haliř and Ševčík, and would have gone on to study with the latter, had it not been for World War I. He was playing in public at twelve and was able to hear Caruso, Destinn, Elman, Kreisler, Kubelík, Szigeti and Ysaÿe. With Sir Landon Ronald’s help, at fifteen he entered the Guildhall School of Music in London, where he studied with the Dutch player Max Mossel, graduating in 1924 with the gold medal. Meanwhile he made his Queen’s Hall début with Ronald conducting in June 1923, playing Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole and Elgar’s Concerto on the borrowed ‘Betts’ Strad. Primrose gained most from Eugène Ysaÿe, with whom he spent several summers at Le Zoute from 1926, and it was the Belgian master who suggested he turn to the viola.

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