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Music: GB-Russia Society: Tsar’s Hall: Russian Music in London

In late 19th century Britain, if you wanted to listen to the latest symphony by the
talented Petr Tchaikovsky or other leading Russian composers, and many did, you’d
probably head down to Queen’s Hall in the heart of London’s West End.

Russian music was so regularly performed there that one prominent music critic dubbed it
‘Tsar’s Hall’.

Indeed, some have suggested Russian music’s prominent position at Queen’s Hall was due to
musical director Henry Wood’s marriage to Russian singer, Olga Michailoff. Olga Woods
was certainly a star performer at many of the Proms which were held at Queen’s Hall from
1895. But to attribute the prominence of Russian music there to the Woods’ marriage alone
would be to underestimate financial and institutional factors shaping the selection of

The volume of Russian works heard at Queen’s Hall would have been unthinkable had
audiences not wanted to hear it, and it was this sense of popular demand that constitutes one
of the Proms’ principal contributions to musical life in turn-of-the-century Britain. Philip
Ross Bullock will present an illuminating new perspective on the reception of Russian music
during the first two decades of the twentieth century.

Dr Philip Ross Bullock is a lecturer in Russian within the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Oxford. He is a Fellow of Wadham College, Lecturer at Christ Church, Magdalen and Worcester Colleges. His recent research has been in the area of the relationship between words and music in Russian culture from the late eighteenth century to the present day, with a specific focus on the literary, musical and cultural history of the art-song repertoire, as well as on aspects of opera too. He also has an interest in the prose writers of the early-Soviet period, particularly Andrei Platonov and Isaak Babel’. He has co-edited (with Rebecca Beasley) and contributed to a volume entitled Russia in Britain, 1880-1940: From Melodrama to Modernism (OUP, 2013). He has also been awarded several prizes for music and modern languages research, and he has written and presented a number of talks and features on Russian literature and music that have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

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