Hallé Orchestra

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The Hallé is an English symphony orchestra based in Manchester, England. It supports a choir, youth choir, youth training choir, children's choir and a youth orchestra, and releases its recordings on its own record label, though it has occasionally released recordings on Angel Records and EMI. Since 1996 the orchestra has been resident at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. In May 1857 the pianist and conductor Charles Hallé, who had been a founding member of the Liverpool Philharmonic, set up an orchestra to perform at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, which it did until October. Hallé decided to continue working with the orchestra as a formal organisation, and it gave its first concert under those auspices on 30 January 1858. The orchestra's first home was the Free Trade Hall. By 1861 the orchestra was in financial trouble, and it performed only two concerts that year. Hans Richter served as music director from 1899 to 1911. During his tenure, the orchestra gave the first performance of the Symphony No. 1 of Sir Edward Elgar. In 1943 the orchestra was again in crisis, having diminished in size to 30 players. Over the next 27 years, from 1943 to 1970, the orchestra's next music director, Sir John Barbirolli, restored the Hallé to national prominence. Together, they made many recordings, including the first recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 8, of which they also gave the first performance. During Barbirolli's tenure, one of the most notable orchestra members was concertmaster Martin Milner, who served in that capacity from 1958 to 1987. Barbirolli regarded Milner as his "right-hand man" and once wrote in appreciation to him: "You are the finest leader I have ever had in my fairly long career." Kent Nagano was principal conductor of the orchestra from 1992 to 1999. The orchestra moved from the Free Trade Hall to the Bridgewater Hall in 1996, as its primary concert venue. During his tenure, Nagano received criticism for his expensive and ambitious programming, as well as his conducting fees. However, poor financial management at the orchestra separately contributed to the fiscal troubles of the orchestra. The orchestra faced major financial problems during the late 1990s, including a £1.3 million deficit in 1998, to the point where the existence of the orchestra was threatened with loss of funding from the Arts Council and ultimately bankruptcy. During 1997 there was an eight-month period when the orchestra had no executive director. Leslie Robinson served for two years as chief executive after that period, starting changes to the orchestra to start to bring under control the orchestra's financial troubles. These included public fund-raising, which netted £2 million, cutting the number of people on the orchestra board in half, and reducing the number of musicians in the orchestra from 98 to 80. Since 1999, the orchestra's chief executive has been John Summers, who continued Robinson's fiscal practices to restore greater financial security to the orchestra. In 2001, the Arts Council awarded the orchestra a £3.8 million grant to allow it to pay off accumulated debts and increase musician salaries, which had been frozen for 4 years. In September 2000 Sir Mark Elder took up the position of music director, having been appointed to the post in 1999. His concerts with the orchestra have received consistently positive reviews, and he is generally regarded as having restored the orchestra to high critical and musical standards. In 2004 Elder signed a contract to extend his tenure through 2010, and in May 2009 the Hallé announced a further extension to 2015. In November 2013, the Hallé announced the further extension of Elder's contract through "at least 2020". One of the orchestra's recent ideas was to try to find alternative stage dress to the traditional "penguin suits", but this idea did not come to fruition. The orchestra has also begun to issue new CD recordings under its own label. In March 2006 the orchestra was forced to cancel a planned tour of the United States because of the cost and administrative difficulties in obtaining visas for the musicians, a result of the tougher visa regulations intended to combat potential terrorist attacks. The orchestra appointed its first-ever principal guest conductor, Cristian Mandeal, in 2006. He served in this post until 2009. In February 2008, the orchestra announced the appointment of Markus Stenz as its second and next principal guest conductor, starting in 2009. Past assistant conductors have included Edward Gardner, Rory Macdonald, Andrew Gourlay, and Ewa Strusińska (2008–2010), the first female conductor named to a UK assistant conductorship. In September 2012, Jamie Phillips became the Hallé's new assistant conductor, whose duties include musical direction of the Hallé Youth Orchestra. The current leader of the Hallé is Lyn Fletcher. The orchestra's current head of artistic planning is Geoffrey Owen. The Hallé Choir was founded with the orchestra in 1858 by Sir Charles Hallé. The choir gives around twenty concerts a year with the Hallé at The Bridgewater Hall and other venues across the UK. Appearing with international conductors and soloists in concert and recordings, the choir performs a repertoire of major choral and operatic works ranging from mainstream pieces to more esoteric pieces and commissions.James Burton was choral director from April 2002 to July 2009. Other guest choral directors have included Tom Seligman, David Lawrence, Frances Cooke, Ralph Allwood and Justin Doyle. The choir's activities include individual vocal coaching, sectional and full choir rehearsals as well as social events. Margaret McDonald is the choir's vocal coach. The Hallé Choir has received critical acclaim for performances with Elder, including a Verdi centenary programme at the BBC Proms and performances of Haydn's The Creation, J.S. Bach's St John Passion and Janáček's Glagolitic Mass. The Hallé's CD label features the choir on its releases, English Rhapsody, Hallé Christmas Classics and Elgar: A Self-Portrait. The choir was also featured in The Hallé's 2008 recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with Bryn Terfel, Alice Coote, Paul Groves, Hallé Choir and the Hallé Youth Choir, which won a Gramophone Award in 2009. A second Gramophone Award was awarded in 2010 for the Hallé's live recording of 'Götterdämmerung'. In 2011, and for the third consecutive year a Gramophone Award was awarded for the live recording of Edward Elgar's 'The Kingdom' for which Tom Seligman was the guest Choral Director. Recent Hallé Choir Directors have included Frances Cooke. The current Hallé Choir Director is Madeline Venner. The Hallé Youth Orchestra was founded in 2002, with Edward Gardner as their first conductor. The HYO regularly work with members of the Hallé Orchestra through workshops, and each summer undertake a tour.