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8 @ 80: Prelude & Fugue

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Armand Russell writes: 'The Prelude of 8 @ 80 is a slow introduction to the main movement, the Fugue that follows. Throughout much of the work the ensemble is divided into two quartets, however from time to time this division is modified and altered. The Prelude has a three-part form that begins and ends with chorale-like chords. in between is a quite rhythmic set of variations on a short theme with the two quartets exchanging prominence but culminating in a combined variation in which the ensemble merges into a unified force. The chorale-like passages ending the prelude involves sharply clashing chords and ends with a quiet but enigmatic and conflicting chords.

The Fugue brings in its theme in traditional fashion, part by part. After all the parts have presented the subject there are three substantial episodes that appear like developments. Between there are passages in which the subject returns in its entirety, first turned upside down, then combined on itself with overlapping of the statements (stretto), and finally with a broad effect created by slower rhythmic values (augmentation). The effect is greatly simplified with just two different parts but each is extensively doubled so as to enhance the power of the ensemble.'

8 @ 80: Prelude & Fugue was composed to celebrate the composer's 80th birthday in 2012. The Prelude has a lyrical and chordal approach, with interesting and shifting harmonies as each quartet (basses 1-4/basses 5-8) often work together in rhythmic unison which is then contrasted by passages of more contrapuntal interest.

The Fugue begins with Bass 8, gradually moving upwards, and there are challenges for each player. The approach is tonal and modern, full of interesting harmonic and contrapuntal devices to move the interest from player to player and from one section of the octet to another. Each player ventures into low thumb position and this would be ideal for any advanced youth orchestra or conservatoire double bass department who are looking for music which challenges but is also player and audience friendly.

8 @ 80: Prelude & Fugue was premiered at Wells Cathedral School (Somerset, UK) on 28 April 2013 by David Heyes, Ben Groenevelt, Jim Rintoul, Nic Lum, Joe Prindl, Josie Jobbins, Thea Sayer and Dan Laurie.

Armand Russell was born in Seattle, Washington in 1932. He received the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Washington, with a major in music composition, and a Doctorate in music composition from the Eastman School of Music. He studied double bass with Leslie Martin, who played in the Seattle Symphony and Boston Symphony Orchestras, and at the Eastman School of Music with Oscar Zimmerman. His composition studies were with John Verrall and George McKay at the University of Washington, and with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson at the Eastman School.

Professionally, Armand Russell played double bass in many orchestras including the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Tour Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic and Civic Orchestras, and Honolulu Symphony. For five years he taught as a visiting Professor at the Eastman School of Music. From 1961 to 1994 he taught at the University of Hawaii Music Department and retired as Professor emeritus in 1994. While at the University of Hawaii he taught music theory, composition and double bass and also served as Chair of the Music Department for seven years.

Armand Russell has composed many works for double bass and also percussion, including solos, chamber music and concertos. Some of his most frequently performed works include Chaconne (Db/Pno), Buffo Set (Db/Pno), Harlequin Concerto (Db/Orch), Pas de Deux (Cl/Perc), Percussion Suite, Theme & Fantasia (Concert Band) and Suite Concertante (Tuba/Wind Quintet). He has also composed several works for choirs in recent years and has continued to write for the double bass alongside a growing body of chamber music and transcriptions.

Armand Russell's compositional style is confident and direct with a clarity of line and texture always to the fore. A modern, yet lyrical and accessible style, has created works which communicate equally to performers and audiences alike and he has made, and continues to make, a unique and valuable contribution to the double bass litereature throughout a long and successful career.

Recital Music held a celebration of Armand Russell's music at Wells Cathedral School (Somerset, UK) in September 2012 to celebrate the composers 80th birthday.


  • Fugue
  • Prelude

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Cat No. RM588
Supplier Code RM588
Price £18.50
ComposerArmand Russell
CategoryDouble Bass Octet
PublisherRecital Music
Difficulty level6 - 8, Advanced
ISMN 979-0-57045-588-1
EAN-13 9790570455881
Weight 194 grams
Published 18th June 2013
Availability 5 in stock
See also...
RM048  Blue Sunday
RM224  Antiphonal Fanfare
RM490  Bass-Chase