CD: Yizhak Schotten’s Tribute to Lionel Tertis and William Primrose

(Crystal Records)


“During my studies with Primrose, I heard Lionel Tertis for the first time on a recording, and his sumptuous sound and brilliant playing also made a significant impression on me,” says Israeli-born violist Yizhak Schotten. Tertis, a self-taught violist and son to a British cantor, plays polar opposite to William Primrose, who was born into a stringed-instrument family, his father playing and collecting violins and violas. But the two would share a unique and collaborative passion for the viola, working effectively to broaden the instruments musical repertoire.

The two violists first crossed paths in 1928, when the recently graduated Primrose played violin in the Sinfonia Concertante at a Mozart festival in Paris, with Tetris playing viola (then age 52). At this pinnacle moment, Primrose fell in love with the viola and the exceptional tone Tertis possessed.

The young musician purportedly told Tertis after the performance, “I am a disciple of yours from henceforth.” Only a few years later, Primrose began making solo viola recordings.

Tertis and Primrose recognized the limited repertoire for solo viola and worked to broaden it by creating arrangements and transcriptions. Schotten pays special tribute to these old masters through an amazing collection of transcriptions of Haydn, Liszt, Bach, Fauré, Paganini, and more. A personal favorite, the Fauré (Après un rêve; Tertis), is originally a transcript from Pablo Casals, and the only one of his to be received favorably (he recorded it twice).

Here, Schotten really sings; his seductive tone mimics Casals’ deep cello at the opening of the piece with startling sumptuousity, and later escalates in intensity and register with enviable lyricism.

*This article appeared in Strings May 2011
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