Primrose, William , eminent Scottish-born American violist and pedagogue; b. Glasgow, Aug. 23, 1903; d. Provo, Utah, May 1, 1982. He studied violin in Glasgow with Camillo Ritter, at London’s Guildhall School of Music, and in Belgium (1925–27) with Ysaye, who advised him to take up viola so as to avoid the congested violin field. He was the violist in the London String Quartet (1930–35), with which he made several tours. In 1937 he settled in the U.S., and was engaged as the principal violist in the NBC Sym. Orch. in N.Y. under Toscanini, holding this post until 1942. In 1939 he established his own string quartet. In 1953 he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1955. From 1954 to 1962 he was the violist in the Festival Quartet. He also became active as a teacher; was on the faculty of the Univ. of Southern Calif, in Los Angeles (1962) and at the School of Music of Ind. Univ. in Bloomington (1965–72). In 1972 he inaugurated a master class at the Tokyo Univ. of Fine Arts and Music. Returning to the U.S., he taught at Brigham Young Univ. in Provo, Utah (1979–82). Primrose was greatly esteemed as a viola virtuoso; he gave first performances of viola concertos by several modern composers. He commissioned a viola concerto from Bartók, but the work was left unfinished at the time of Bartók’s death, and the task of reconstructing the score from Bartók’s sketches remained to be accomplished by Bartók’s friend and associate Tibor Serly; Primrose gave its first performance with the Minneapolis Sym. Orch. on Dec. 2, 1949. He publ. A Method for Violin and Viola Players (London, 1960), Technique in Memory (1963), and an autobiography, Walk on the North Side (1978); also ed. various works for viola, and made transcriptions for the instrument.
D. Dalton, Playing the Viola: Conversations with W. P. (Oxford, 1988).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
prim·rose / ˈprimˌrōz/ • n. a cultivated plant (Primula vulgaris) of European woodlands that produces pale yellow flowers in the early spring. The primrose family (Primulaceae) also includes the cowslips, pimpernels, and cyclamens. ∎ (also primrose yellow) a pale yellow color.PHRASES: primrose path the pursuit of pleasure, esp. when it is seen to bring disastrous consequences.
The name is recorded from late Middle English, and means literally ‘first rose’.
Primrose Day the anniversary of the death of Benjamin Disraeli (19 April 1881), whose favourite flower was reputedly the primrose.
Primrose League a political association, formed in memory of Benjamin Disraeli in 1883, to promote and sustain the principles of Conservatism as represented by him.
primrose path the pursuit of pleasure, especially when it is seen to bring disastrous consequences. The original allusion is to the reference in Shakespeare's Hamlet to ‘the primrose path of dalliance’.
cow·slip / ˈkouˌslip/ • n. 1. a European primula (Primula veris) with clusters of drooping fragrant yellow flowers in spring. 2. any of a number of herbaceous plants, in particular the marsh marigold and the Virginia bluebell.