All too often, the viola gets a bad rap, and for no good reason. In the right hands, it can sing just as beautifully as the other members of the string family. Philipp Triggs reminds us that it can have a powerful role in the orchestra that makes it indispensable.
Béla Bartók was asked by violist William Primrose to write a concerto for viola that would really challenge him. He basically told him not to worry even if it seemed literally impossible to play on the viola – Primrose was going to learn it.
Unfortunately, Bartók was in late stages of leukemia and died before finishing it. His close friend finished writing it and others helped with revisions. And in 1949, 5 years after Primrose commissioned it, the concerto premiered with Primrose as soloist.
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