Thursday, 3 March 2016

Artist Spotlight - Violinist Lucy Russell


Lucy Russell is among the most distinguished of international violinists who has now led the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists for several years. She has achieved eminence on both historical instruments and their ‘modern’ counterparts, performing and recording music from Monteverdi to the present day with equal distinction and authority. She became leader of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet in 1995; with them she has played all over Europe, North America, South Africa, Canada and Israel as well as making recordings for Linn Records, Divine Art Records, the BBC and various foreign radio stations. The quartet plays on both modern and historical set ups and will be recording late Beethoven String Quartets on heavy gut for Linn this Autumn. In addition to Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Lucy is much in demand as Leader of several Early Music orchestras and has worked in this capacity for such as The King’s Consort, Classical Opera Company, Dunedin Consort, and she has also been a key player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  She has made numerous recordings over the years as an orchestral and chamber player and regularly teams up with Rachel Podger with her own ensemble, Brecon Baroque. 

Tell us a bit more about performing in York with the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists: 
I was a student when I first had the opportunity to play with YBS. I must have been fairly clueless and 'green' but I cut my teeth on some of the very best repertoire. It's been about 3 decades now since I first played and I think I can only have been unavailable to play with the group for only one or two concerts! We've  played abroad, recorded and done what most successful outfits do but most importantly, we are a tight knit bunch who cherish making music together and enjoying each other's company!

Lucy Russell
You've recently recorded J.S Bach Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord with John Butt what was your experience of recording such a cornerstone of the repertoire?    
Recording the Bach Violin Sonatas was the mission of a lifetime!  I started to dabble with these works whilst still a student at York and had always been drawn to them but to finally record them was a dream come true. They offer the best of Bach - they encompass Bach the cerebral, the human being, the profound, the emotional, the jazzy. It's all there and playing with John was a 'hand in glove' experience and a lot of fun too!

Do you plan any similar projects? 
I'm into CPE Bach (one of Bach's sons) and Beethoven and I'd love to record these sonatas some day. Maybe also long have I got?!!

As a youngster, did you ever have a eureka moment listening to or performing a certain piece of music? 

I've had so many eureka moments whilst listening to music/playing music that it's hard to single out any particular one. As a youngster, performing Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances fuelled my passion for the great romantic composers. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Verdi's Requiem also blew my mind. I think I'm very fortunate to have these kind of moments on a regular basis and as leader of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, this can happen on an almost daily basis - Beethoven late quartets spring to mind.......Thank goodness for Music!

Lucy leading Yorkshire Baroque Soloists rehearsing Haydn Creation
If you could travel in a musical time machine to experience a certain period or era in history where and when would you travel to?
I'd have loved to meet Haydn. His music, like that of Bach, appeals to me for all the same reasons I quote above.  He is a three-dimensional composer and his imagination, humour, pathos etc seemingly endless. Hugely respected by Beethoven and Mozart, to name but two, he had a profound influence on his contemporaries and beyond yet I think he'd have been more fun to hang out with in the Bier Keller than either of his aforementioned grumpy or flighty chums!

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
Lucy with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet
Mainstream jazz or Bruckner symphonies listened to at home with no lights on!

How do you relax?
Inventing new ways to incorporate yet more garlic or chilli into my cooking. And practising yoga!

What would your super power be?
To ensure a permanent state of world peace.

What is your most treasured possession?
Life itself.

What keeps you awake at night?
The music I'm currently working on!

We look forward to hearing Lucy lead the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists in JS Bach Easter Oratorio (BWV 249), Bach Mass in G minor (BWV 235) and Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11).   The concert will take place in St Michael le Belfrey, York on Saturday 12 March and further details on the concert and how to buy tickets can be found at:

You can find more information on Lucy and the Fitzwilliam string quartet at Details of her first solo CD of Bach’s Obbligato Violin Sonatas
with John Butt can be found on the Linn Records website.

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