William Russell (1777-1813) : an enquiry into his musical style
thesisposted on 12.12.2013, 12:08 by Gillian Ward Russell
That eighteenth-century England produced no composer of the calibre of Haydn, Mozart, or Beethoven cannot be denied: however, in the past this fact has led to an unjust dismissal of English music of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. More recently there has been an awakening of interest in the music of this era. It was a time of intense musical activity in England, but native musicians were coerced, by public taste and fashion, into subservience to foreign performers and composers. This enforced inferior status was not totally unproductive, however, since it brought both professional musicians and the public face to face with new developments from abroad; some indigenous composers deliberately shunned foreign influences, some largely were left untouched by them because of their seclusion in the conservatism of the Church, while others embraced the new style. The life of one musician, who lived and worked in London, is surveyed in the contexts of life and music in the metropolis. William Russell lived at a time of change: it was the end of a musical era when what we term Baroque influences were finally fading, when the Classical style--though established abroad--was not yet totally accepted in England, and yet it was a period of anticipation of the Romantic era. This study explores the answers to the question, 'Was Russell's music a prelude to the Romantic period, a postlude to the old style, or merely an interlude between the two?' Russell's principal works (the large-scale choral compositions and organ concerto--pieces which, traditionally, were performed together in the theatre) form the basis for this comprehensive investigation; study and performance scores are provided, illustrating that not all was dull and lifeless during that era. On the contrary, there was much indigenous productivity whose achievements were, and still are, commendable.