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Wednesday, February 4, 1998 Published at 08:42 GMT


The Halle: 140 years of musical tradition under threat

The board of the Halle Orchestra is due to meet to discuss a financial crisis that threatens its future.

What is at stake is the nation's oldest full-time orchestra and one that has played a unique role in the development of classical music in Britain.

  • The Halle has only had seven permanent principal conductors throughout its lifetime.

  • The orchestra was founded in 1858 by German-born pianist, conductor and impresario Charles Halle, a refugee from the 1848 revolution in Paris. He later became Sir Charles and was to conduct the orchestra for 37 years.

  • The Halle played its first concerts in Manchester's Free Trade Hall. It was to remain there for 138 years until its move to the £42 million Bridgewater Hall in the city last year.

  • The Halle performed a string of British premieres, including Mahler's Ninth Symphony and Shostakovich's First. It was also chosen to perform the world premiere of Elgar's First Symphony in 1908.

  • In 1940 the Free Trade Hall was virtually destroyed by enemy bombs, leaving only the facade remaining. A new hall was built behind the remains, opening in 1951.

  • Sir John Barbarolli joined the Halle in 1943, creating almost a new orchestra out of the destruction of war. He stayed there for 27 years and built up the Halle's international reputation.

  • The ageing Free Trade Hall was criticised for its acoustics and its comfort and in the late 1980s the orchestra's future was threatened as it plunged almost £500,000 into the red in a similar crisis to the one it faces now.

  • Years of planning and searching for a new home ended with the three-year construction of the spectacular Bridgewater Hall, which seats 2,400 concert goers.

  • The new building weighs 25,000-tonnes and is built on giant springs to protect it from vibrations caused by the adjoining Metrolink "supertram" system. It houses a £1.2 million pipe organ, the largest of its kind to be installed in Britain this century.

  • The Halle's present principal conductor and musical director, flamboyant American Kent Nagano, was recruited from the Opera de Lyon in 1990.

  • The orchestra plays about half its concerts in Manchester, but a national touring programme takes it to every part of the United Kingdom.

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