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British Viola Virtuoso Lionel Tertis was Born in 1876

Regarded as "a giant of the viola world," the British virtuoso transformed the capabilities of the viola and brought it to the spotlight during the 20th century


Initially a violinist studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Lionel Tertis's teacher Alexander Mackenzie encouraged him to transition to viola. Tertis later became regarded as one of the best-known violists of his time, touring as a soloist around Europe and the United States.

Tertis temporarily replaced violist Oskar Nedbal in the Bohemian Quartet but later became the violist of the Gerald Walenn Quartet. At the age of 24, he also became the Academy of Music's first viola professor while maintaining a solo career.

Tertis was an advocate for expanding the viola repertoire. He contributed many original compositions, commissioned pieces from other composers, and arranged many transcriptions of other works for the viola such as the Elgar Cello Concerto.  

From 1920 to 1937, Tertis owned a 1717 Montagnana viola, but it was difficult to play due to its size. Later on, he created the Tertis model, which boasted the tonal advantages of a larger instrument but in a more manageable size.

Tertis was recognized as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1950.

In memory of Tertis, the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition was established in 1980.



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