Collection CH - Charles Hallé letters

Identity area

Reference code

GB GB1179 CH


Charles Hallé letters


  • late 1800s (Creation)

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97 items

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Hallé was born Carl Halle in Hagen, Westphalia, on 11 April 1819, (he added the accent to the ‘e’ later in life, allegedly to ensure its more accurate pronunciation by the French and English). His father Friedrich was church organist and director of Hagen's mainly amateur orchestra. By the age of four, Carl could play the piano sufficiently well to manage a sonata written by Friedrich. He also learnt to play the organ, the violin and the timpani. Under the patronage of Louis Spohr, he gave a piano recital at the age of nine; thereafter his father limited his public appearances to one a year, in Hagen. He first conducted at the age of 11 when his father was taken ill during Hagen's annual visit from a touring opera company, for which the town's musicians provided an orchestra. The boy took over the direction of Weber's Der Freischütz and Preciosa and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. In the summer of 1835, when he was 16, Hallé went to Darmstadt to study harmony and counterpoint under Johann Rinck and to receive general musical instruction from Gottfried Weber. In 1836 he moved to Paris, hoping to become a piano pupil of Kalkbrenner (but in fact studied under George Osborne). In Paris, Hallé soon came to know Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz and Wagner. In recitals in the salons, he introduced Beethoven's sonatas to Parisian audiences: he was the first pianist to play the complete series in Paris and, later, in London. His edition of the sonatas was published by Chappell. He also appeared frequently as a chamber music player, with Alard (violin) and Franchomme (cello). During these years he became a passionate devotee of the music of Berlioz, attending the rehearsals and first performances of several of his works, including the Requiem and Roméo et Juliette. In the revolutionary year of 1848 Hallé decided to leave Paris because of diminishing concert audiences and lack of pupils. Since 1841 he had been married to Désirée Smith de Rilieu, formerly of New Orleans, and he took her and their two children (later there were nine) to London, which he had first visited in 1843. But London was crowded with émigré musicians, so he accepted an approach from Auguste Leo, a Manchester businessman and friend of Chopin, to settle there and to revivify musical life. In 1849 he was appointed conductor of the old-established Gentlemen's Concerts with a free hand to reorganize the orchestra. In 1857, when an art treasures exhibition was held in Manchester for six months, this orchestra was much enlarged and, rather than disband it, Hallé decided to engage it for a new series of concerts at his own risk. The first concert was given on 30 January 1858. Very soon the Hallé Concerts became Manchester's leading musical event; Hallé conducted them, often also appearing as piano soloist, for the remaining 37 years of his life. His programmes were adventurous and he engaged leading soloists of the day. He continued to give piano recitals in London every summer, concentrating on the sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert. In 1893 he saw the realization of one of his long-held ambitions for Manchester: the foundation of a music college in the city. He was appointed principal and piano professor at the RMCM, which opened in October of that year. Hallé was knighted in 1888, the year in which he also married the celebrated violinist Wilma Norman-Neruda (his first wife had died in 1866). With Lady Hallé he gave sonata recitals not only in Britain but on tours of Australia and South Africa. They had returned from the latter only a few weeks before Hallé's sudden death from cerebral haemorrhage. He is buried in Weaste Cemetery, Salford. This biographical history is by Michael Kennedy (in Grove), with additions.

Archival history

Purchased from Sotheby's by the RNCM in the sale of November 26th -27th 1980; lot 277. With financial assistance from Granada Television, the City of Manchester Cultural Services Department, and the Hallé Concerts Society. Provenance prior to sale is unknown, and has not been ascertainable. It is possible that the letters had been collected and retained by members of the Withers family (cf. ff.14-16).

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Scope and content

Letters sent by Charles Hallé (88 in total), chiefly to Stanley Withers and Gustav Behrens, and chiefly concerning the foundation of the Royal Manchester College of Music, particularly meetings for canvassing support and executive meetings. Other correspondents are also represented including Dr Ward, Lord Tennyson and the Earl of Derby. They include: engagement of Mme Novello for a private function, 1856 (in French; ff.2-3); letters to John Ella on programmes and on a personal dispute (one in French; ff.4-9); arrangements for recitals and concerts both given and organised by Hallé (ff.10-13); Lord Tennyson's refusal to become a member of the general committee for the College of Music in Manchester, July 22 1891 (ff.19-20); the appointment of staff and allocation of students, 1892-5 (ff.21-22, 25-28, 50-58, 69-70, 81-82, 87-88, 93-94, 124-127, 130-131, 134-137, 152-153, 156-157, 188-189); Earl of Derby subscribing to the College of Music, July 1892 (ff.23-24); the proposed constitution of the new College, 1892 (ff.38-39); acceptance of post of Principal, March 1893 (ff.48-49); the appointment of Dr H[iles], 1893 (ff.50-51, 65-68); the petition for a Royal Charter, 1893 (ff.59-60); proposed timetable, Sir G. Grove's objection to the title and Hallé's suggestion that it become the "Royal Conservatoire of Music", and suggestions as to the President, July 1893 (ff.73-74, 79-80); proposed rules for students about engagements, classes etc, 1893 (ff.75-76, 85-86, 89-90); Hallé's opinion of Behrens' suggestion of the "Royal Northern College of Music", July 1893 (ff.77-78); teaching of the guitar and opening ceremony, Aug 1893 (ff.89-90, 103); classrooms, Sep 1893 (ff.91-92); arrangements for auditions, Sep 1893, Sep 1894, Sep 1895 (ff.99-102, 142-143, 184-185); Withers to Ward on the authentication of a pencil sketch of Charles Lamb, with a letter from Canon Ainger Jan 1894 (ff.114-120); the death of Charles Lees, 1894 (ff.138-139); from Marie Hallé to Williams [mistaken for Withers] on the loan of letters [for inclusion in the autobiography of Sir Charles Hallé edited by Marie and Charles Hallé], 1897? (ff.190-191).

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Dates of creation revision deletion

WickhaS, 29/07/2003. Revised by Sykese, 31/01/2008




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