The son of the noted composer of popular ballads Henry Russell, Ronald made his name as an accompanist, for example to Melba during her 1894 US tour.
In 1900 he joined the Gramophone & Typewriter Company (later HMV), providing piano backing to Adelina Patti and other early recording artists. From 1908 he conducted the New Symphony Orchestra (known as the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra between 1915 and 1928), and began recording with them in 1909.
He also acted as artistic advisor to HMV. Many of his orchestral recordings again feature him as a sympathetc accompanist, often in concerto recordings. He was also a noted exponent of Elgar's music, but as Elgar was himself contracted from 1914 to record his own music for HMV, commercial priorities meant that Ronald had no opportunity to set down his interpretations.