My Viola and I

Lionel Tertis

Lionel Tertis was internationally recognised to have been perhaps the greatest viola player of all time. He is the undisputed father of modern viola playing and is largely responsible for the establishment of the viola as a solo instrument.






Lionel Tertis was internationally recognised to have been perhaps the greatest viola player of all time. That the viola is today an important solo instrument and orchestral unit is entirely his achievement, and his design of a large but easily manageable viola – the Tertis Model – has laid the foundations for a standard-sized instrument. The author describes his prodigious career with vigour and a remarkable recall of detail. The musicians and composers, many of them his close friends of whom he writes, include some of the most important in twentieth century music. A comprehensive bibliography of works written for solo viola is included as is a complete discography of the author’s solo recordings.



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About the Author

Lionel Tertis first studied the violin in Leipzig, Germany and later at the Royal Academy of Music in London where he was encouraged by the principal, Alexander Mackenzie, to take up the viola. Further encouraged by Oskar Nedbal, he became one of the best known violists of his time. As Professor of Viola at the RAM, he encouraged his colleagues and students to compose for the instrument, thereby greatly expanding its repertoire. Composers such as Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge, Gustav Holst, Benjamin Dale, York Bowen, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and William Walton all wrote pieces for him.


List of Illustrations
Preface by Lillian Tertis
Author’s Note
1. Formative Years
2. Student Days
3. Back Desk to Front Desk
4. Hobbies
5. The Young Mr Beecham- and New English Composers
6. 1914-18
7. American Tours
8. Fruitful Years
9. The Elgar Viola Concerto
10. Heyday in the Thirties
11. A Dark Cloud
12. Collaboration with Beecham 1938-9
13. Return to the Concert Platform – and America
14. Octogenarian Activity
15. Revolutionary Seating Plan for a Symphony Orchestra
16. Nonagenarian Activity
17. Reflection
Essays for the String Player:
Beauty of Tone in String Playing
The Art of String Quartet Playing
Hints to Composers
The Tertis Model Viola
Violin Craftsmen who make The Tertis Model Viola
Works for Viola Solo
Discography – Recordings by Lionel Tertis


This will not only become the bible for all viola players, but an historic document for all musicians and music lovers, covering as it does three-quarters of a century of music making all over the world.

Lionel Tertis was a legend in his own lifetime – he stood shoulder to shoulder with Ysaye, Kreisler, Casals, Cortot, Rubinstein and a galaxy of stars in the first four decades of the 20th century. He was the first great virtuoso of the viola and arguably the best, and [his] recordings bear testament to one of Britain’s finest musicians.
John White – Classic Record Collector

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