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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » T » Tertis, Lionel



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Lionel Tertis (12/29/1876 - 02/22/1975)

Lionel Tertis is acknowledged the world over as the father of modern viola playing. His virtuosity and his personal vision of a warm, vibrant viola tone, derived from his close study of his idol Kreisler’s playing, amazed his contemporaries and stimulated others to carry on his work. Through his teaching and his collaboration with Sir Thomas Beecham, he raised the standard of orchestral viola playing—before his time, the viola section was regarded as a refuge for failed violinists. Although his own experiences of professional string quartet playing were of relatively short duration, Tertis was a magnificent chamber music coach, his most successful pupils being the Griller Quartet. He also acted as an invaluable stimulus to modern luthiers, in their search for a viola that looks good, sounds good and is playable.

Tertis was the ‘twin’ of Pablo Casals, sharing not only his birth date, 26 December 1876, but also his single-minded, selfless devotion to elevating a previously unsung instrument to solo status. The two were friends but unlike the Catalan, Tertis was a late starter. Born in West Hartlepool, County Durham, the son of Jewish immigrants, his father Russian, his mother Polish, he was brought up in the East End of London.

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