The famous English viola player and Royal Academy of Music professor gave performing tips to student Sydney Errington in the 1930s


Lionel Tertis

Sydney Errington, who was to become principal violist of The Hallé, was a student of the great British violist Lionel Tertis in the 1930s. Here, taken from Errington's notebook, are some of the things Tertis told him during his introductory lesson:

1 Feel every note you are performing all the time. Every quaver must live.

2 Try to eliminate the bow, the hair, the rosin and the strings and go directly to the music. In other words, the sound must be beautiful and pure all the time.

3 Watch intonation all the time; never let a slipshod note go by – your tone will be three times as great with perfect intonation!

4 Change position smoothly with no jerk or bump. Bound up with this is changing string smoothly, quietly and at the last moment

5 Never attack with a jerk unless for a special musical reason

6 Take time over the bottom notes of chords – give them a chance to ring

7 At the end of many up bows, let the bow and string ‘breathe’

8 As a general rule descending slides should happen in the new bow with a new finger. Generally, ascending slides should be executed with the old finger when both notes are slurred, or with the new finger when notes are separate

9 Never ‘pull off ’ bow at end of down bow – keep same speed to the end

10 Change bow quietly

This article is part of a larger feature on 'Lionel Tertis the Teacher' by John White, published in The Strad's December 2006 issue