Famous People Who Played the Viola
Author: C.P.E. Bach (in a letter to Johann Forkel)
Quote: He heard the slightest wrong note even in the largest combinations. As the greatest expert and judge of harmony, he liked best to play the viola, with appropriate loudness and softness. In his youth and until the approach of old age, he played the violin cleanly and penetratingly, and thus kept the orchestra in better order than he could have done with the harpsichord. He understood to perfection the possibilities of all stringed instruments.
Sally Beamish, (b.1956)
British composer of Tam Lin, Into the Furnace, Symphony (1992), Viola Concerto
(Henry Wood Prom concert 1995).
Publication: The Independent Newspaper
Author: Annette Morreau
The Article begins: What do you do if you get robbed? Take up composing? In
the case of Sally Beamish definitively. Neither the thief, the viola, nor
the video has ever re-emerged, but Beamish took the event to signify that
she should give up her profession as a viola player and become the composer
she had ignored. The robbery took place in London, June 1989.
York Bowen, (b.1884-1961). British composer
Article: ‘York Bowen’s Viola Music’ – a centenary tribute in The International Viola Yearbook 1984
Author: John White
Quote: He was an accomplished horn and viola player and could play most
other instruments. Myers Foggin, an ex-student of York Bowen gained the
impression that playing the viola gave Bowen the greatest joy… fascinated
by the viola… and played piano for Tertis on many occasions. etc.
Frank Bridge (b.1879-1941), British composer
Publication: The Viola Music of Frank Bridge
Author: Michael Ponder
Quote: … this completes Bridges output for viola – rather strange in many
ways – as he was a viola player himself. etc.
Sten Broman, composer (link)
John Cale, Rock star – ex-Velvet Underground member (link
April Cantelo, soprano
Rebecca Clarke, composer (British-born)
Eric Coates, composer
Anthony Collins, conductor
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Dvorak, composer, was a professional violist.
Carlo Maria Giulini, conductor
John Harbison, composer
Jimi Hendrix, rock guitarist, started his musical career at an early
age on the viola according to leaflet in “Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Collection.”
Dudley Herschbach (1932-) Baird Professor of Science, Harvard University.
Linus Pauling Medal; Nobel prize for Chemistry, 1986.
Rae Jenkins, conductor
Edouard Lalo, frensh composer (27/1 1823- 22/4 1892)
references: The Violin and Viola (by Sheila M. Nelson), Sohlmans Musiklexikon
David Layzer (dates???) Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University.
Author of Constructing the Universe, Cosmogenesis
Christa Ludwig, singer
James Marshall, children’s book author, illustrator (George and Martha, Miss Nelson is Missing, Yummers, The Stupids, etc.) – graduate of the New England Conservatory
Felix Mendelssohn, composer
Darius Milhaud, composer
Anna Moffo, singer
Pierre Monteux, conductor
John Montgomery (1920-) Ford Foundation Professor of International Relations,
emeritus, Harvard University. Director of the Pacific Basin Research Center.
Was the Allied officer in charge of the reconstruction of Hiroshima.
Mozart preferred playing the viola. It’s believed that he conducted the premiere of his Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola as he played the Principal Viola part.
Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan
Paganini, violinist and composer, fell in love with a Strad viola and
even contemplated becoming a violist.
Allan Pettersson, swedish composer and violist (born Sept. 19, 1911)
references: worked as a violist in Stockholm Concert Society Orchestra
(later Stockholm Philharmonic), before he began to compose. He died in 20 June
1980. Sohlmans Musiklexikon (Nordic musicencyclopedia)
From the New Grove:
It was during Schubert’s holidays that a family string
quartet was formed, with the composer playing the
viola, his brothers Ignaz and Ferdinand the violins,
and his father the cello. For this family quartet the
early string quartets of 1811-14 were composed.
Rudolf Schwarz, conductor
Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Singer
Hans Sitt – Violinist who played viola in Brodsky Quartet and as a composer wrote works for the viola (Concerto in A minor, Concertpiece in G minor, etc)
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Bruno Walter, conductor
William Waterhouse, bassoonist
Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer
Viola-Related Musicians: http://www.tom.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~kacky/Va/Musicians/ (Last checked page no longer exists)
Thanks to Michael Dennison, Michael Palumbo, Michael Loo, Anders Arvidsson
for adding to this list.
If you know any quotes related to the viola or famous people who played the viola (musicians known only as violists are not within the scope of this page) to add to this list, please contact me. If you can, please supply info such as author, name of publication and page number where references to their viola playing can be found.