Magazine article Gramophone

The Halle: Our Monthly Series Telling the Story Behind an Orchestra

Magazine article Gramophone

The Halle: Our Monthly Series Telling the Story Behind an Orchestra

Article excerpt

Founded 1858

Home The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Music Director Sir Mark Elder

Founding Music Director Charles Halle

Note the absence of the word 'orchestra'. The Halle is more than that. It started life as a multifaceted concerts society and is currently a family comprising four choirs, two symphony orchestras and thousands of cheerleaders. If plans are approved, it might soon include a school. Improvement was at the heart of the institution Charles Halle founded in hard-working Victorian Manchester. A century-and-a-half later, it's hard to think of anything other than football that expresses civic cohesion in this city quite like the Halle does.

The Halle's 'adult' symphony orchestra has been associated with 20th-century boom-and-bust, but its significance in British music life is hard to overstate. It introduced the world to Elgar's First Symphony, Mahler's Das klagende Lied and Thomas Ades's These Premises are Alarmed. It generated one of the greatest orchestra-conductor partnerships in history, when John Barbirolli inherited a band of 30 players from Hans Richter and created a delectable orchestra over 27 years. More recently, it kick-started a pan-European trend that suggests Wagner's Ring is the ultimate test for a symphony orchestra as much as for an opera company.

The Halle's recent history pivots on the year 1996, when it moved from Manchester's dowdy Free Trade Hall to its industrial-chic Bridgewater Hall. It wasn't the honeymoon it should have been. …

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