Manchester Celebrities of Classical Music & Theatre
Sir John Barbirolli
Barbirolli, despite his Italian surname, was born in London, though he is associated with Manchester through his conductorship of the Hall� 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 Opera Company. 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 Hall� 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.
Sir Charles Hall�
(1819-1895) A German by birth, Charles Hall� 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, Hall� 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 Hall� 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: Hall� Orchestra
(1843-1916) Hans Richter was the celebrated Hungarian born conductor of the Hall� 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 Hall� 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.