Most people knew Watson Forbes, the distinguished viola veteran, as a soloist and part of the Stratton - later Aeolian - String Quartet, but he was also a tutor, arranger, producer, adjudicator, and Head of Music for the BBC in Scotland for several years. It was by mistake that he picked up the viola. Work in the recently founded BBC Symphony Orchestra had been given to the viola player in the Academy quartet because, viola players being thin on the field, there was no one to substitute him. So Forbes was convinced to take a viola with him over the summer holidays and so enthusiastically played at an Academy concert on his return that he concluded that he favored the instrument to the violin. He eventually auditioned for the violin for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra but added that he played the viola. Consequently, at the Queen's Hall, he was given a "gig" and had to perform "a terrible part" in the Beethoven Coriolan overture, needing to memorize the part because the viola clef could not yet be read. Forbes was joint chief of the London Symphony Orchestra at the outset of the Second World War, but he entered the famed RAF Orchestra from 1940 onwards, which comprised a range of small chamber music musicians, all prominent soloists in their own right.
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