EX CATHEDRA | Lucy Russell - violin

From our ‘Bach, Christmas Oratorio’ programme, December 2018

Lucy Russell is renowned for her versatility as a violinist. As leader of the eminent Fitzwilliam String Quartet, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, she has performed and recorded extensively for three decades! With the quartet she performs music from Purcell to the present day, using – where appropriate – gut strings to connect with and convey the sound world of a given composer.  The group has recently recorded Schubert’s Death and the Maiden quartet and the A Minor on gut (to be released in 2019), having already put down works by Haydn, Brahms and Bruckner on these setups. The strong association with the quartets of Shostakovich continues with re-recording his last three quartets (also for release in the Anniversary year), and with a planned collaboration with a quartet of dancers. The Fitzwilliam, like Ex Cathedra, has always championed works by contemporary composers, and continues to add more names to its repertoire. Indeed, the two groups will team up in 2019 to celebrate their combined 100th anniversary!

Lucy has achieved recognition for her thoughtful and committed performances as a soloist, and also as leader of various other ensembles. She is equally at home on modern or period set-ups and is dedicated to teaching the importance of versatility, flexibility and curiosity to her students, on any instrument! She teaches in a number of institutions, and is Professor of Baroque Violin at the Royal College of Music, a visiting tutor at Birmingham Royal Conservatoire, Honorary Professor of Strings at St Andrews, and a director of the York University Baroque Ensemble. She has given masterclasses in Russia and America to great acclaim. Her teaching is a very important part of her work as a musician and she endeavours to enable and inspire her students, at whatever level.

Her recording of Bach’s Obbligato Violin Sonatas with John Butt was highly praised, receiving a five star review from BBC Music Magazine: “for sheer freshness, insight and life-enhancing joy, this newcomer goes to the top of the class alongside Podger and Pinnock, Manze and Egarr”.

1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?

I’ve played with Ex Cathedra off and on for about 10 years or so but perhaps it’s longer… time flies as one gets older! I’ve never officially ‘joined’ the group so haven’t got as long and glorious a history as some. However, the concerts I have been a part of, highlighting an unforgettable B Minor Mass a couple of years ago and, more recently, a fabulous Monteverdi Vespers – with truly wonderful and inspiring singing and playing – have made me feel proud to be a part of such an ensemble! 

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

Get up, make some tea, feed the cat, do some downward dogs (yoga!), have a bath…!! That’s the typical bit… and then after that it’s different every day, which I like. I think that’s why a 9-5 job would never have appealed (apart from a regular salary!). Some days I’m preparing repertoire with the quartet, other days I’m at RCM teaching or coaching. Sometimes I’m bowing up parts for an orchestra project or for a student or amateur course. Or I’m curating a programme for a recital and trying to find a decent edition for a specific work. Practising too… going from Baroque to Classical to modern (not necessarily all in the one day!) means keeping in good health with each instrument.  Sometimes it seems as if life is all work and not much play as we all bundle from one thing to the next, with time found for admin too. I relax with some good homemade grub and some yummy wine and try to take some exercise too… however, my Fitbit isn’t very pleased with me just now!!

3. If you could choose to perform again any piece you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and & why?

B minor Mass as mentioned above. I think this is a remarkable work and, in the right hands, a memorable and meaningful musical experience.

4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?

Listening to Bruckner Symphonies in the dark with the volume up, with a bar of 75% chocolate and a glass of red wine!