“November 30, 1836. I went to dine with Baron Eichtal…where I heard — Chopin. It was beyond all words. The few senses I had quite left me. I could have jumped into the Seine. Chopin! He is no man; he is an angel, a god.” - Sir Charles Hallé.
In the history books, he’s a British icon. Conductor, pianist, educator. Founder of his namesake Hallé orchestra in Manchester…as well as the city’s Royal College of Music. Britain’s Musical Ambassador across the Continent, Australia, and South Africa. Knighted by Queen Victoria.
But Sir Charles was actually German-born; he was a young hotshot pianist named Karl Halle, when he wrote that fevered prose about his first encounter. Despite – or perhaps because of – his dazzlement with Chopin, Hallé became one of Chopin’s closest associates, and one of the most astute chroniclers of Chopin’s style. Not only were Hallé’s interpretations of Chopin said to be the closest to the composer’s own, but also it was Hallé who played other composers’ works for Chopin.
In fact, after leaving Paris for Britain in 1848, Hallé became arguably the greatest popularizer of Chopin, Beethoven, and Berlioz in Britain. He was the first to play all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in public. His Hallé Orchestra frequently programmed Chopin’s piano concertos, and introduced the epic Damnation of Faust by Berlioz to English audiences.
And he wrote. A lot. Letters, Memoirs, treatises, essays on the remarkable music and musicians he had known. Hallé was an eyewitness to Chopin’s last recital in Paris, and wrote a famous account, concluding with the luminous Barcarolle: “He played the latter part of his Barcarolle, where it demands the utmost energy, in the most opposite style, pianissimo, but with such wonderful nuances….Nobody but Chopin could have accomplished such a feat.” - Jennifer Foster