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Watson Forbes

Watson Forbes’ move from violin to viola was precipitated by circumstances of employment, the BBC Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras both offering vacancies for violists at the right time. Having had lessons initially with his father (a folk-fiddler), he entered the Royal Academy at sixteen to learn violin with Edith Knocker and viola with Raymond Jeremy (who had participated in the première of Elgar’s String Quartet in 1919 with Albert Sammons leading). In 1930 he furthered his studies in Czechoslovakia with Ševčik, whom he credited with teaching him how to practise and deal with difficult passages. Finally Forbes went to Sammons in London to learn ‘how to put the music across to an audience’. During this period of mature study Forbes was invited by George Stratton to join his quartet. The group was a favourite of Elgar’s and made recordings of his String Quartet and Piano Quintet in 1933 which Elgar famously listened to on his deathbed. Forbes’s solo career burgeoned at this time; he was also recording for Decca, and took part regularly in the National Gallery concert series organised by Myra Hess during World War II.




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