Celebrities of Classical Music & Theatre
Barbirolli, despite his Italian surname, was born in London,
though he is associated with Manchester through his conductorship
of the Hallé Orchestra,
when he accepted the job of rebuilding it after the Second World
War. After the war, only a dozen of its members were still actively
involved (or alive), and Barbirolli set about the transformation
by employing the best musicians he could find, and by fighting
to improve wages.
He had shown an early talent in playing the violin, though he
changed to the cello at the instigation of a rather dominant
grandfather, and by the age of 11 he had given his first solo
public performance with this instrument. Within a year of this
he began studying at the Royal Academy of Music.
In 1924 he formed a small chamber orchestra and pioneered the
performing of works by Debussy, Delius and Ireland. He was a
most successful conductor and very much in demand, playing with
such celebrated orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic and the
London Symphony, as well as conducting for the British National
In 1936 he was invited to join the New York Philharmonic as
conductor, succeeding the great Toscanini, and stayed with them
until 1943. Between 1962 and 1970 he also regularly commuted
between Manchester and Houston, where he was conductor of the
Houston Symphony Orchestra. He was knighted in 1969.
It was Barbirolli, more than any other, who was responsible
for raising Manchester's Hallé Orchestra from a relatively modest
provincial ensemble to that of a world class orchestra of great
renown. His work was recognised by his country when he was awarded
the Companion of Honour in 1969. Barbirolli Square in Manchester
Arndale Centre is named in his honour.
A German by birth, Charles Hallé was born in Hagen, Westphalia,
the son of a church organist. By the age of nine he was demonstrably
skilled in playing the piano, and at this age he gave his first
public performance. He studied under the German masters Rinck
and Gottfried Weber, before moving to Paris where he was to
live for several years. In Paris he came to know many famous
composers and performers, including Chopin, Lizst, Berlioz and
Wagner, and his time was happy there until the Revolution of
1848 forced him to move to England.
Initially he lived in London where he gave several successful
concerts, but he moved eventually to Manchester, largely on
account of the large resident German population in the city.
He moved into a house in Greenheys Lane in Manchester and it
was to remain his home for the rest of his life. Apart from
the piano, Hallé had become a teacher and a much respected conductor,
and his despair at the poor quality of musical performances
in the city drove him to take steps to improve it. Through teaching
and conducting he gradually improved Manchester's music until
in 1857 he was able to form his own orchestra, which became
known as the Hallé Orchestra. A frequent performer himself at
home, he also travelled to perform in Australia and London.
He helped found the Royal College of Music in Manchester and
was its first president. It was through this institution that
he was able to seek out, promote and co-opt talented performers
into his orchestra.
He also founded the St Cecilia Society, conducted operas and
introduced into England the work of his personal friend, Berlioz.
He was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by Edinburgh
University in 1880 and was made a knight in 1880. He
died in 1895 and is buried in the Roman Catholic section of
Salford Cemetery. See
also: Hallé Orchestra
Hans Richter was the celebrated Hungarian born conductor of
the Hallé Orchestra from 1899 to 1911. He lived in Bowdon near
Altrincham from around 1900 where he was a familiar character.
Richter was a close fiend and colleague to celebrated composers
like Wagner, Elgar and Brahms, and had actually been choirmaster
at the premiere performance of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger"
at Bayreuth in 1868, as well as for the English premiere in
1882. He also conducted at premieres for music by Brahms, Mahler
and Bruckner. In his time he was also conductor to the Imperial
Court in Vienna. Richter conducted the Hallé Orchestra in the
premiere of Elgar's First Symphony on 1st December 1908. He
retired back to Austria on account of ill health and failing
eyesight in 1911 and died in 1916.