JAVS Fall 2023

the famous Italian Maestro, Arturo Toscanini, and prompted his enthusiastic invitation for Primrose to join the Maestro and his newly formed orchestra, The NBC Symphony in New York City. Although many people mistakenly believe that Primrose was hired in 1938 as the orchestra’s “Principal Violist,” he was in fact hired as “Assistant Principal Violist.” You see, Toscanini was no dummy. Despite being very much aware and supportive of Primrose’s success as a soloist and chamber musician, he was also aware that throughout his career to date, Primrose had very little first-hand experience as an orchestral musician or section leader. This practical decision on Toscanini’s part, however, never kept the great Maestro from presenting William as a featured soloist with the orchestra on numerous occasions. Amazingly, one of the benefits of William and Dorothy’s residing in New York was their avoidance of the German “Blitzkrieg of London,” which had virtually destroyed most of the Primrose family home. Thankfully the billiard table in the home was miraculously spared, a miracle since William’s entire family had taken refuge under the table that night as the bombing ensued. Unfortunately, most of William’s early recordings, news clippings, and other memorabilia from his life prior to WWII were destroyed in those bombing raids. On the bright side: a few of his personal items had been stored in a small suitcase that was happily left untouched by the onslaught of bombs and ultimately that suitcase (along with its contents) was generously and subsequently presented to the Primrose Archive by William’s sister, Jean. William Primrose had been a member of The NBC Symphony for four seasons when, in 1941, he began to investigate other potential professional opportunities. As he himself tells the story in his memoirs, “Walk on the North Side”, on one fateful day towards the end of his 4th season with NBC, he slightly modified his usual walk to lunch following a morning rehearsal. 3 Typically, he would stroll down the southside of 57th Street on his way to his favorite luncheon spot, The Lotos Club. However, on this particular day, he noticed a wonderful picture of Rachmaninoff on display across the street at the Steinway Building and crossed to the north side of 57th St. for a better look. As he completed his closer inspection of the picture and turned to head back to the south side of 57th St., he literally ran into a friend and former colleague, the

incomparable—and extremely popular—tenor, Richard Crooks.

Following their initial greetings, Crooks asked Primrose what he was up to “these days.” Primrose responded by sharing with Crooks his plan for leaving the NBC Orchestra at the end of the current season. Much to Primrose’s surprise, Crooks used the opportunity to ask whether by any chance Primrose might have any interest in touring with him as an assisting “solo” artist, a concert format becoming quite popular at the time. This somewhat “revolutionary” new concert style was designed to offer both the audience a bit more variety in programming and provide the primary artist with a slightly lighter performance load. Well, Primrose’s affirmative response was soon to become history as these two spectacular artists almost immediately became one of the most successful and popular musical touring teams, a showcase that ultimately launched Primrose’s brilliant career as the very first major solo violist in history. As Primrose’s solo career blossomed, he and Dorothy enjoyed traveling a great deal together throughout the US, South America, and—as the War resolved—Europe. Sadly, as Dorothy’s health began to deteriorate towards the latter part of the 1940’s, William was forced to spend more and more time on the road by himself. Occasionally, he and I would discuss those years of his life and each time he would express to me just how torn and tortured he felt being forced both financially and ethically to honor his professional touring commitments while leaving his darling wife alone at home in seriously deteriorating health. Many of the insightful love letters between Dorothy and William that are currently preserved in PIVA were written at this time in his life (1951) and reflect many heart-felt literary expressions of his deepest feelings for her. In my opinion, if for no other reason, just having the opportunity to review this collection of amazing letters in person at PIVA is worth the visit to Provo! Ultimately, Dorothy did sadly succumb to cancer on December 14th, 1951, at a clinic in Lausanne, Switzerland.


Journal of the American Viola Society / Vol. 39, No. 2, Fall 2023

Made with FlippingBook Digital Publishing Software