Sometimes I’ll meet someone new and tell them my name. Sometimes they say “Hallé...like the Hallé Orchestra?” and I say “no like Halley’s Comet.” The man they’re referring to is Charles Hallé the pianist, conductor and founding member of Hallé Orchestra and here I am at his final resting place. Though buried on the outskirts of Manchester he was born Karl Halle in Hagen in Germany. His dad was an organist who taught his son the play and he was so precocious he performed a sonata in public aged four. Music flowed in his blood and there was no going to work in a factory for him. He studied under respected musicians in Germany at 16 years old and at 17 went to study in Paris (he knew Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt.) He put on some concerts and would have probably would remained in France but the 1848 revolution propelled him across the pond to England
He changed his name to Charles Hallé and settled in Linden Gardens in London with his wife and two children. He was the first pianist to perform piano sonatas in England and often gave recitals from his house in London. However he was especially adept with a baton and conducting musicians he’d brought together. Aged 34 the family moved to Manchester to conduct concerts. Prince Albert asked him to perform at the opening ceremony of the Art Treasures of Great Britain, the biggest single exhibition Manchester had ever hosted. It was so successful he kept the band members and the Hallé Orchestra was formed.
At this time concerts were rather ramshackle and the quality average but Charles’s concerts raised the level to perfection. The orchestra's first home was the Free Trade Hall in central Manchester. Charle’s perfection attracted leading musicians from all over Europe and he insisted on keeping tickets prices low enough to embrace a wider audience. He aimed to lift up the listener’s standards than pander down to them. He took his brood and performed all over the country and even Australia.
When he was 47 his wife died and it was another eighteen years till he married again, at 69, to a violinist. Shortly after this he was knighted. He died suddenly in Manchester. The Free Trade Hall is now a hotel so the orchestra has moved into the Bridgewater Hall where they still play regularly.
Revisited in 2021...