Outside the profession, the name William Primrose may mean nothing. To the music world at large it conjures the image of a figure of near-legendary fame and virtuosity. But to viola players, he is revered like a god.

Not exactly single-handedly, but with the members of what became known as a mighty triumvirate - composer and viola player, Paul Hindemith, and British violist Lionel Tertis - Primrose brought the humble and much-maligned instrument out of the closet, into the limelight, and onto the world's stage as a virtuoso instrument in its own right.

He was soloist with the world's leading orchestras, he worked with all the great conductors of the day, in chamber music his colleagues were the most famous musicians alive, and the most prominent composers of the century - from Bartok to Benjamin Britten - wrote new works for him.

In a colourful life and action-packed career that criss-crossed the globe, perhaps the least known and appreciated fact about William Primrose is that he was Glaswegian born and bred, which, given the astonishing reputation he accrued, and his position in musical history, should make him one of the city's most famous sons. It is perhaps typically and perversely Glaswegian that this hasn't happened. Yet. This summer a concerted attempt to put Primrose on the map in his native city will be mounted when an international congress in his memory is staged in the city.

The 26th International Viola Congress will be held in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, only the second time it has come to the UK. Around 200 delegates are expected to attend, and, as well as lectures, masterclasses, and demonstrations, the congress will feature a dozen recitals and concerts, with five world premieres and a host of today's top viola players. Additionally, a memorial plaque will be mounted at his former home in the West End, and Glasgow City Council has agreed, if the money is found, to the erection of an abstract sculpture in Concert Square - the pavemented area in Killermont Street, opposite the Royal Concert Hall and adjacent to the bus station.

That bronze sculpture, which artist Archie Forrest has agreed to design, will be in celebration of music-making in the city and dedicated to William Primrose.

In 1904, the year Primrose was born, Wilton Drive in Glasgow, around the corner from the BBC, was so heavily populated by musicians it was known as Harmony Row. The family lived at number 18. William's father, John, was a violinist in the Scottish Orchestra, now the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, as well as teaching the instrument. Young William took up the violin at four and, clearly, took to it like a duck to water. By the time he was 12 he had made numerous concert appearances in Glasgow, including (allegedly, as the RSNO is unable to trace the performance in its archives) one at the St Andrew's Halls where he played Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. When 15, partly at the instigation of conductor Sir Landon Ronald, who had heard him and declared him a genius, young Primrose moved to London to study in the capital.

He hated his period at the Guidhall School of Muisc, but made progress into the profession - at his London debut in 1923 he played, among other things, Elgar's Violin Concerto. Three years later, beginning to notice his playing slip, and concerned his success might be a flash in the pan, Primrose took himself off to Belgium to study with the elderly master, Eugene Ysaye, who not only sorted out his technique over a three-year period, but advised him to switch to the Cinderella of stringed instruments, the viola.

In Primrose's own words: ''I burned all my bridges . . . and turned to the viola.'' And he never looked back. He joined the London String Quartet in 1930, was invited by Toscanini to join the newly-formed NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1937, formed the Primrose Quartet in 1938 (at the invitation of NBC), and, in 1941, set out on the long-distance, solitary career as a soloist.

His career and reputation went stratospheric. He played with all of the prestigious US orchestras, including the Boston and Chicago Symphonies and the Los Angeles Phil and Philadelphia orchestras. The roster of conductors he worked for was a roll call of the greats: Barbirolli, Beecham, Boult, and Sargent were among the prominent Brits who revered his playing; Charles Munch, Toscanini, Wilhelm Furtwangler, and Serge Koussevitsky (who proclaimed Primrose ''the world's greatest violist'') were among the Europeans.

Primrose's intense involvement with chamber music led to his association with living legends. Simply, he worked with every one of the greats: he played and recorded with Fritz Kreisler; with a stellar line-up of companions - pianist Artur Schnabel, violinist Joseph Szigeti, and cellist Pierre Fournier - he established a quartet that helped inaugurate the chamber music series at the Edinburgh Festival.

Over a period of decades, he worked closely (though coolly) with - for some, the greatest violinist of them all - Jascha Heifitz. In the fifties, a supergroup was created with Heifitz and Primrose being joined by cellist Gregor Piatagorsky. But Primrose's fame didn't just rest on his being one of the elite players of the day. He revolutionised the instrument, bringing to it new standards of performance to which players - to this day - still aspire.

For James Durrant, doyen of Scottish violists, Primrose was the greatest of them all. ''The first time I heard him, in the 40s, I was electrified by the sound; it changed the whole scene. Technically, none of the others was near him. The sound he got was the essence of a good viola sound: it aspired neither to be a violin nor a cello, but itself.

''In those days it was very much a neglected instrument, and the sound associated with it was rather plummy. Primrose was very influential in changing that: his was a clean, precise and better articulated sound than the others, including Lionel Tertis. And his technique was quite unbelievable.''

As he played the unplayable, so did composers respond, producing for him a stream of works to push the boundaries of the world's most insulted instrument beyond previously imaginable levels: Bela Bartok's Viola Concerto, Darius Milhaud's Second Viola Concerto, concertos by Edmund Rubbra and Peter Racine Fricker, sonatas by Arthur Benjamin and Alan Paul, Benjamin Britten's Lachrymose; these and more were written for the hands that rewrote the viola's potential.

Primrose died in 1982. A man who clearly loved life, he had three wives, a passion for cricket, and an unflinching dedication to his art and his instrument. James Durrant says: ''I can't think of anyone at all on that level that's come out of Britain, except perhaps Jacqueline du Pre.''

Yehudi Menuhin notes: ''If Lionel Tertis was the first protagonist, Bill Primrose was certainly the first star of the viola.'' The largest repository of materials relating to the viola in the world bears his name: the Primrose International Viola Archive, based in Brigham Young University in the US, holds more than 4500 scores, 100s of sound recordings, original manuscripts, correspondence, research papers and photographs. There, and elsewhere, the name of Primrose is secured. It is the intention of the organisers of the international congress and mini-festival his home city acknowledge the man, the musician, and his legacy.

Details of the festival/congress, dates, the recitals and concerts, the musicians, composers, and world premieres involved, will be covered in due course. In the meantime, anyone wishing to make further inquiries (and they are looking for sponsors, too) should contact Dawn Durrant on 0141 334 4867.