Artist Spotlight: The Halle Orchestra

Now one of the most famous orchestras in the world, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for The Hallé Orchestra. Come with us as we explore the history of one of the greatest, most successful orchestras of our time.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 26th Apr 2022

Regardless of whether you prefer the doom-infused chugging guitars of metal, the cool, laidback flows of hip hop, or the catchy, simple tunes of radio hits, you’ll have heard about the famed Hallé Orchestra

The world-famous orchestra is recognised as one of the best symphonic ensembles, with numerous prestigious awards under its belt. But of course, such a level of success doesn’t happen overnight. It took serious dedication, passion, and the manoeuvring of a few hurdles over the years.

 

 

The Hallé Orchestra was founded in 1858 (164 years ago) by pianist and conductor Sir Charles Hallé in Manchester. Born in Germany, Hallé grew up around music and was already performing in public at the age of four and conducted an opera when he was just eleven years old. As an adult, he lived in Paris, where he befriended Chopin, Liszt and other famous musicians. Eventually, he moved to England due to The French Revolution of 1848.

He moved to Manchester in 1853 to direct some concerts, and in 1857 he was asked to put together an orchestra to perform at the Art Treasures of Great Britain. It was a fantastic success, but once the exhibition was over, he knew his orchestra would disband. To keep his orchestra together and continue to bring music to the public, Hallé hosted weekly concerts through autumn and winter at the Free Trade Hall. The first concert was held on the 30th of January in 1858. 

The Free Trade Hall became the home of the orchestra. Here, they would perform hits of the time, including pieces by Beethoven, for the public, until moving to The Bridgewater Hall in 1996. 

 

After Hallé’s death, many reputable conductors led the orchestra including Hans Richter (regarded as one of the world's best conductors at the time), Sir Hamilton Harty (whom the orchestra made its first commercial recordings under), Sir John Barbirolli, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, and many others.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing for the orchestra, though. The Hallé suffered a great deal of financial trouble over the years, shrinking to just 30 musicians in 1943. But Sir Barbirolli joined that same year and is credited with repairing The Hallé and restoring it to its glory. 

 

 

Fast forward to the late 1990s, and the orchestra was struggling again financially, facing potential defunding from the Arts Council. Leslie Robinson stepped in as chief executive for two years and helped rectify the financial struggles using a few methods, including public fund-raising. John Summers, who replaced Robinson, continued with Robinson’s practices, leading to greater financial security. The Arts Council even awarded the orchestra a grant to pay debts and increase salaries in 2001.

Since 2000, the orchestra has been led by Music Director Sir Mark Elder, who was knighted in 2008 for his services to music. Under Sir Elder, The Hallé Orchestra won several prestigious awards, including five Gramophone Classical Music Awards for the music The Hallé recorded on its own record label, which was launched in 2003.

Despite encountering many hurdles, including recurring financial problems, The Hallé Orchestra has braved the storm and is now recognised as one of the world’s most famous orchestras, with a trophy case full of awards and lots of stunning albums to show for it.

 


 

This year, The Hallé Orchestra will make an appearance at the highly anticipated Leighton Live Festival, closing the festival as fireworks colour the skies behind them. The Hallé will also be putting on performances at their home, The Bridgewater Hall (click "The Bridgewater Hall" to view upcoming events). For a chance to see this legendary orchestra perform, secure your tickets now. 

 



 

Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.

 

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Header image: The Hallé Orchestra on Facebook 

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