From manuscript to publication : aspects of Lionel Tertis’ style of viola playing as reflected in his 1936 edition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ suite for viola and orchestra
The Suite for Viola and Small Orchestra (or Piano) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was commissioned by and dedicated to the British violist Lionel Tertis (1876-1975).
The premier occurred on 12 November 1934; Lionel Tertis was the soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Sir Malcolm Sargent.
The work was first published by Oxford University Press in 1936 in an edition for viola and piano. In this edition, the viola part contains many inconsistencies with the manuscript, which is held at the British Library (Add. MS 50386).
Between the first performance in 1934 and the publication of the Suite in 1936, Tertis made considerable editorial changes to the viola part. These changes involve fingerings, bowings, phrasing, articulation, and dynamics; at times the notational substance is altered as well. It is the aim of this thesis to demonstrate why Lionel Tertis’ 1936 version differs from the manuscript.
Bernard John Kane’s thesis demonstrates that the differences which do exist between the manuscript and the 1936 edition are the result of Tertis’ idiosyncratic style of performance, the most notable aspects being Tertis’ emendations concerning his use of articulation and phrasing.
Chapter 1 discusses aspects of Lionel Tertis’ life that led to his international recognition as one of the greatest violists of all time and the relationship he had with Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of which led to the composition of the Suite for Viola and Orchestra.
The following two chapters demonstrate that the differences made between the manuscript and the 1936 edition are reflections of two aspects of Tertis’ own style of viola playing.
These are, generally speaking, Tertis’ use of articulation to create a bigger sound in passages of a louder dynamic and his use of connected, sustained cantabile phrasing in passages of a softer dynamic.
There are also examples from his own arrangements of other music where he makes similar changes which reflect this general philosophy.
Original discovery by William A. Everett, discussed in “Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Suite for Viola and Orchestra,” Journal of the American Viola Society 13, no. 2 (1997): 9-19.
To read the full dissertation by Bernard John Kane click here