Primrose International Viola Competition

The Primrose International Viola Competition® 2021 is open to violists born after December 1, 1991, and who are ready to embark on an international solo career. The Competition welcomes applicants of all nationalities, ethnic origins, religions, and genders.

The application deadline was originally set for June 11, but was extended to July 16 to accommodate those in countries experiencing a(nother) surge of the pandemic. All applicants were required to be current members of, and in good standing with, the American Viola Society, and to submit a nonrefundable application fee of $125 US dollars.

24 Quarter-Finalists have been invited to the live rounds – you can find them here!

Repertoire Guidelines & Procedures

Competitors must perform a different selection of works in each round (including the Pre-Screening Round), and no substitutions are allowed for required works. Repeats are not encouraged, but permitted. The cutting of particularly lengthy tutti sections is strongly encouraged for all rounds (except for the Final Round), but ultimately left to the discretion of the competitor. All works originally written for viola & orchestra and all works for solo viola must be performed by memory. Competitors are free to decide their performance order for each round, but those who do not abide by the time limits may be stopped by the jury.

Only one transcribed work may be used to compete for the “Transcriptions Prize,” and only one work by a BIPOC composer may be used to compete for the “BIPOC Prize.” The competition is not open to laureates of any previous edition of the Primrose International Viola Competition. The number of competitors are subject to change, and the jury will have the discretion to decide on the final number of competitors for each round. All prizes will be awarded, and the decisions of the jury will be final.

Pre-Screening/Video Round

*Maximum length of total combined performance of all three works – 20 minutes*

Competitors will perform works that fulfill all of the following criteria, and each video recording shall be made from start to finish without cuts and/or splices. Each work shall be uploaded separately. Since it will be a blind review process, do not include your name on the videos or on the titles of your video files:

1) Virtuosic piece of choice (examples include, but are not limited to, Paganini’s 24 Caprices or the Penderecki Cadenza for Solo Viola);

2) The Prelude of a Bach Cello Suite, the Preludio of Partita No. 3 in E Major, or the first movement of a Bach Violin Sonata; and

3) First movement of the Stamitz Viola Concerto in D Major, Op. 1 or Hoffmeister Viola Concerto in D Major, including a cadenza of choice

Quarter-Final Round

*Minimum length of performance – 20 minutes; maximum length of performance – 25 minutes*

The 24 competitors in the Quarter-Final Round will perform works that fulfill all 3 of the following criteria:

1) One major work for solo viola from the list below. Competitors may choose to play one or more movements from the same work to maintain time constraints; however, portions of pieces are not allowed (the Bach/Kodály Chromatic Fantasy, if chosen, must be played in its entirety)

  • Ligeti Solo Viola Sonata
  • Bach/Kodály Chromatic Fantasy in D Minor
  • Any Hindemith Sonata for Solo Viola
  • Any Reger Suite for Solo Viola

2) One piece of choice with piano accompaniment from a category below (Note: competitors who choose to perform the Weber Andante e rondo ungarese must use the Primrose transcription) –

  • Transcribed piece for viola – the transcription can be his/her own OR a transcription by William Primrose. Some Primrose transcriptions are listed in the PDF called “Primrose Transcriptions” below for reference.
  • Virtuosic piece (examples include, but are not limited to, Paganini Sonata per la Grand Viola and Enescu Concertstück)

3) One piece for solo viola or for viola & piano by a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) composer. The work must be 5 minutes or less. Competitors may refer to a list of suggested works here, but are not limited to these works. (Note: while the database is rather broad, competitors must choose a work specifically by a Black or Latinx composer to fulfill this requirement.)

Semi-Final Round

*Maximum length of performance – 50 minutes*

The 8 competitors in the Semi‐Final Round will perform works that fulfill the first two requirements below (the third is optional and dependent on any remaining time):

1) Mozart’s String Quintet No.3 in C major, K.515, movements III and IV (Bärenreiter edition; competitors would play Viola I);

2) A complete major work for viola and piano  (examples include, but are not limited to, the Rebecca Clarke Sonata, a Brahms Sonata, Schumann Märchenbilder, Rochberg Sonata, Bloch Suite 1919, Paganini Sonata per La Grand Viola, or a Hindemith Sonata for Viola and Piano); and

3) An additional piece of choice to utilize any remaining time (reminder: those who choose to perform a second transcription or a second work by a BIPOC composer may only use one performance of each to compete for the “Transcriptions Prize” or “BIPOC Prize”)

Final Round

Each of the 3 competitors in the Final Round will perform, in its entirety, either the Bartók/Serly Viola Concerto or Walton Viola Concerto with the Colburn Orchestra.












* The First Prize winner will also receive the following: 1) an invitation to perform at the 2022 American Viola Society Festival & 47th International Viola Congress in June 2022, and 2) an invitation to participate in the Semi-Finals of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh International Competition in May 2022

Competition Schedule

(All live rounds of the Competition will be held in Zipper Hall.)


Online application due on July 16, 2021


August 2021


By end of August 2021


September 2021


December 11, 2021


December 13 & 14, 2021


December 16, 2021


December 18, 2021

*** Schedule subject to change