Hallé, Charles (DNB01)

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HALLÉ, Sir CHARLES (Carl Halle), pianist and conductor (1819–1895), was born on 11 April 1819 at Hagen, Westphalia, where his father, Friedrich Halle, was organist of the principal church and 'musik director.' As a child he showed remarkable gifts for pianoforte playing. He performed a sonatina in public at the age of four, and played the drums in the orchestra in his early years. In August 1828 he took part in a concert at Cassel, where he attracted the notice of Spohr. At the age of sixteen (in June 1835) he went to Darmstadt and studied under Rinck and Gottfried Weber. A year later he made his way to Paris, intending to take lessons from Kalkbrenner, but he did more by 'picking up' than by actual instruction in the French capital. In Paris he mixed in the best musical circles, which included Chopin, Liszt, Thalberg, Cherubini, Berlioz, Wagner, and others. With Alard and Franchomme he gave an annual series of classical quartett concerts in Paris, which took the highest rank.

In the spring of 1843 Hall paid his first visit to England, the country of his adoption. He took part in a concert given by Sivori on 16 June, and gave a concert of his own on 30 June, both of which took place at the Hanover Square Rooms, but he refused to play a concerto by Griffin at a Philharmonic concert. He soon returned to Paris, where for the next five years he continued to reside.

The French Revolution of 1848 drove Hallé to England. After playing with success in London, he settled upon Manchester as a likely field of professional operations by reason of its influential colony of music-loving Germans, and that city became his home for the remainder of his life. Although his first claim to recognition was as a pianist, Halle possessed sterling gifts as an orchestral conductor. He conducted the Gentlemen's concerts from the end of 1849, founded the St. Cecilia Society in 1850, conducted operas at the Theatre Royal in the winter of 1854-5, and threw himself heartily into the cause of music in Manchester. At the Manchester Exhibition of 1857 he conducted an orchestra with so much success that he continued it as a permanent institution, with the result that 'Halle's orchestra' became greatly celebrated in the north of England. A list of works performed at his orchestral concerts, which began on 30 Jan. 1858, is given at the end of his 'Life and Letters' (pp. 407-28). The first performance in England of his friend Berlioz's 'Faust' (Manchester, 5 Feb. 1880) was due to and conducted by Halle. Other conducting engagements included a series of operas at Her Majesty's Theatre, London, in the winter of 1860-1, the annual Reid concert in Edinburgh (from 1868), the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (from 1882), the Bristol Musical Festivals of 1873, 1876, 1879, 1882, 1885, 1888, 1890, 1893; from 1882-5 he conducted the Sacred Harmonic Society (London).

In 1850 Hallé began those series of piano-forte recitals with which' his name was for many years worthily associated. The first of the series, entirely devoted to the works of Beethoven, for which James William Davison [q. v.] wrote his excellent analytical notices, was given in London in 1861; in fact Hallé found a very good second home in the metropolis, where he frequently appeared at the Musical Union, and more especially at the Popular concerts. He had a large clientele as a teacher of the pianoforte, one of his pupils being Queen Alexandra. His best-known professional pupil was Gottschalk.

In 1890, and also in 1891, in company with his second wife (formerly Madame Norman Neruda), Hallé paid two successful professional visits to Australia, and in 1895 to South Africa. He was largely instrumental in founding the Royal College of Music (Manchester), and in 1893 became its first principal.

Hallé received the degree of LL.D. honoris causa from the university of Edinburgh in 1880, and on 10 July 1888 he was knighted by Queen Victoria. He died at his residence, Greenheys Lane, Manchester, on 25 Oct. 1895, and his remains are interred in the Roman catholic portion of Salford cemetery. He was twice married : first, on 11 Nov. 1841, to Desirée Smith de Rilieu, who died in 1866 ; and, secondly, on 26 July 1888, to Madame Norman Neruda, the distinguished violinist, who survives him.

As a performer Hallé was a disciple of the classical school, and, compared with modern pianism, his style was somewhat cold, while studiously correct, and respectful to the composers whose works he interpreted. On the other hand, his achievements as a conductor showed that he could rise superior to his somewhat phlegmatic temperament, and so capable a critic as Hans von Bülow paid a high tribute to his skill as a chef d'orchestre. A man of remarkably methodical businesslike habits for a musician, he had an exceedingly retentive memory, and did much to foster a taste for classical music in England. His compositions were unimportant. He edited a 'Practical Piano-forte School' (begun in January 1873), and its sequel, a 'Musical Library,' both consisting of classical pianoforte pieces, begun in 1876. There is an oil painting of him by Victor Mottez (1850).

[Life and Letters of Sir Charles Halle, edited by his son, C. E. Halle, and his daughter, Marie Halle, 1896; various periodical publications; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

F. G. E.