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Lionel Tertis (29 December 1876 – 22 February 1975) was an English violist and one of the first viola players to find international fame.

Tertis was born in West Hartlepoolmarker, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, and initially studied the violin in Leipzigmarker and at the Royal Academy of Musicmarker in Londonmarker. There he was encouraged by Alexander Mackenzie, the Principal, to take up the viola instead. Under the additional influence of Oskar Nedbal, he did so and rapidly became one of the best known violists of his time, touring Europe and the USA as a soloist. Composers such as Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge, Gustav Holst, York Bowen and William Walton wrote pieces specially for him. The Walton piece was his Viola Concerto, however, Tertis never performed it because he couldn't understand it at that time.

In 1906, Tertis was temporarily in the famous Bohemian Quartet to replace the violist/composer Oskar Nedbal.

He also owned a 1717 Montagnana from 1920 to 1937 which he found during one of his concert tours to Paris in 1920, and took a chance in acquiring. According to his memoirs, it was "shown to me in an unplayable condition, without bridge, strings or fingerboard.... No case was available -- it was such a large instrument 17? inches -- so my wife came to the rescue by wrapping it in her waterproof coat, and that is how it was taken across the English Channel." Tertis preferred a large viola in order to get an especially rich tone from his instrument.Knowing that some would find a 17-1/8 inch instrument too large he created his own Tertis model, which provides many of the tonal advantages of the larger instrument in a manageable 16-3/4 inch size.

Along with William Murdoch (piano), Albert Sammons, and Lauri Kennedy, Tertis formed the Chamber Music Players.

Tertis composed several original works and also arranged many pieces not originally for the viola for his instrument, such as Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto. He was the author of a number of publications about string playing, the viola in particular, and his own life. They include Cinderella No More and My Viola and I.

Lionel Tertis died in Wimbledon, Londonmarker. The Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition was established in 1980 to honor his memory.

In February 2007 (with his accompanist, the pianist Michiko Otaki), the British violist Roger Chase initiated "The Tertis Project," which is a series of concerts devoted to 20th century works by British composers composed for Tertis.[12580] Chase performs on the same Montagnana instrument that belonged to Tertis.


Original compositions

  • Elizabethan Melody for Viola and Cello
  • 15th Century Folk Song: 1452-Anonymous for Viola, Cello and Piano
  • Hier au soir for Viola and Piano
  • Rêverie for Viola and Piano
  • Sunset (Coucher du soleil) for Viola (or Violin or Cello) and Piano
  • Three Sketches for Viola and Piano
: No.1 Serenade
: No.2 The Blackbirds (1952)
: No.3 The River
  • A Tune for Viola and Piano (published 1954)
  • Variations on a Passacaglia of Handel for 2 Violas (1935); original work based on the Passacaglia by Johan Halvorsen
  • Variations on a Four Bar Theme of Handel for Viola and Cello

Transcriptions, arrangements and adaptations

For viola and piano unless otherwise noted

Original composer Title Remarks
Anton Arensky (1861–1906) Berceuse  
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) Aria "Come Sweet Death" from Cantata 191
Adagio from Toccata in C Major published 1935; original for organ
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) Theme and Variations (on Mozart's "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen"), Op.66 (1796) original for cello and piano
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) Minnelied, Op.71 No.5 (1877) original for voice and piano
Wir wandelten for Violin or Viola and Piano, Op.96 No.2 (1884) original for voice and piano
Willy Burmester (1869–1933) Französisches Lied aus dem 18. Jahrhundert (French Air from the 18th Century) (1909) original for violin and piano
Eric Coates (1886–1957) First Meeting: Souvenir  
Frederick Delius (1862–1934) Caprice and Elegy (1930) original for cello and orchestra
Serenade from the drama Hassan (1920–1923)  
Sonata No.2 (1923) original for violin and piano
Sonata No.3 (1930) original for violin and piano
Ernő Dohnányi (1877–1960) Sonata in C Minor, Op.21 (1912) original for violin and piano
Edward Elgar (1857–1934) Concerto in E Minor, Op.85 (1918–1919) original for cello and orchestra
Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924) Après un rêve original for voice and piano
Élégie, Op.24 original for cello and orchestra
Baldassare Galuppi Aria Amorosa  
George Frideric Handel (1685–1759) Sonata in F Major (Adagio and Allegro) original for violin with basso continuo
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) Capriccio published 1912
John Ireland (1879–1962) The Holy Boy published 1918
Franz Liszt (1811–1886) Liebestraum No.3 in A Major, S.541 (c.1850) published 1954; original for piano
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) Duetto original for piano: Song without Words, Op.38 No.6 (1836)
Fleecy Cloud original for piano: Song without Words, Op.53 No.2 (1838)
Gondola Song original for piano: Song without Words, Op.19 No.6 (1830)
On Wings of Song, Op.34 No.2 (1835) original for voice and piano: Auf Flügeln des Gesanges
Spring Song original for piano: Song without Words, Op.62 No.6 (1842)
Sweet Remembrance original for piano: Song without Words, Op.19 No.1 (1831)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) Sonata [No.22] in A Major, K.305: Allegro molto; Tema con variazione original for violin and piano
Gabriel Pierné (1863–1937) Sérénade, Op.7 original for piano
Anton Rubinstein (1829–1894) Melody in F, Op.3 No.1 (1852) original for piano
Franz Schubert (1797–1828) Du bist die Ruh, Op.59 No.3 (D.776) original for voice and piano
Nacht und Träume, Op.43 No.2 (D.827) original for voice and piano
Robert Schumann (1810–1856) Romance, Op.28 No.2 original for piano
Cyril Scott (1879–1970) Cherry Ripe  
Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915) Étude, Op.42 No.4 original for piano
Karol Szymanowski (1882–1937) Pieśń Roksany from the opera Król Roger  
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) Chanson triste, Op.40 No.2 original for piano
None But the Lonely Heart (also entitled A Pleading), Op.6 No.6 (1869) original for voice and piano
Francis Thomé (1850–1909) Sous la feuillée, Op.29 original for piano
traditional Londonderry Air "Farewell to Cucullain" for Viola or Violin and Piano  
Old Irish Air for Viola or Violin and Piano  
William Wolstenholme (1865–1931) Allegretto in E Major, Op.17 No.2 published 1900; original for organ
Canzona in B Major, Op.12 No.1 original for organ
Die Antwort (The Answer), Op.13 No.2 original for organ
Die Frage (The Question), Op.13 No.1 original for organ
Romanza, Op.17 No.1 published 1900; original for organ


External links

Other reading

  • John White, Lionel Tertis: The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006)
  • Tully Potter, "Chase Fulfilled", The Strad, August 1988.

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