‘Exploring British Viola Repertoire’ by Valerie Dart

As a perennial student of the viola and viola repertoire, I have been fascinated by the fact that our repertoire is not widely known, even by violists, whilst the musical public generally is familiar with much of the violin’s vast repertoire. There are many reasons for this and, having realised that there was a treasure trove of music hidden away, I decided to make this the subject of a research degree and look at the reasons that initially hindered the viola’s progress, and the factors which helped to develop the viola as a solo instrument during the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in Britain. During the research process I kept a record of the works that I discovered, mainly for my own benefit, then realised that this list would be interesting to other viola players. There are some details that I, either have not had time to research in depth yet or may be out of date. For example, when I have come across old editions of music and listed the publisher, it may be the case that another publisher now has the rights. I would welcome the readers’ input if you notice any such discrepancies.

The list became surprisingly large and was the result of information gathered from books about viola history and viola players, old tutor books with repertoire lists, concert programs, correspondence from the early twentieth century and publisher’s catalogues. It includes

  • works that have become well known, for example Walton’s Viola Concerto.
  • works that are published but not as well known, for example Bantock’s Viola Sonata.
  • works that were once published but are now only available as archive copies on request and therefore not distributed, for example Frank Bridge’s Lament for two violas.
  • works that were never published and are in libraries or with societies as manuscripts, for example Sir John Blackwood McEwen’s viola concerto and W.H. Bell’s Rosa Mystica, concerto for viola and orchestra.

I have listed the works, dates, dedications, first performances, publishers and recordings as accurately as I could. It is still a work in progress, but I realised that if I waited for it to seem finished before sharing it with other viola players it could mean wasted opportunities for performance and research for other violists. It was also evident that part of the dilemma facing violists is that if our repertoire is not published and distributed we have to know about it to be able to order it. This puts the onus on teachers and performers to also be researchers and to be willing to perform new repertoire. I am delighted that I can share this information with you. The list can be accessed below and I would welcome any comments or further information to add to the list, which will be revised as needed.

BRITISH VIOLA REPERTOIRE. Revised July 22nd 2015

Bibliography and sources for Repertoire list

I grew up in Britain and studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, studying violin with Yossi Zivoni and viola with Cecil Aronowitz, before moving to Australia where I have continued to be active as a musician, performing in orchestras, chamber music and recitals. I have pursued my research as an ‘MPhil’ research student through Newcastle University NSW, Australia, where I have performed some of the repertoire that I am researching.

 Valerie Dart (nee Tate) ARMCM (violin) GRNCM (viola)