Classical Music

In the 19th century Manchester emerged as an important city for ‘classical’ music. In the first half of the century there were concert appearances by renowned musicians, such as Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin; also Queen Victoria’s favourite, Felix Mendelssohn, conducted a performance of his oratorio Elijah in 1847, months before the composer’s death at the age of 38.

From around 1850, many emigrants came to Manchester from continental Europe and these included numbers of conservatory-trained musicians. There was a strong German community in the city whose cultural influence was felt in orchestras and ensembles, musical clubs and societies.70

Further foundations for the future excellence of ‘classical’ music-making in Manchester were laid by the German-born pianist and conductor Sir Charles (formerly Karl) Halle who founded both the Halle Orchestra in 1858 and the Royal Manchester College of Music in 1893. Among other famous musicians of the day were: Carl Fuchs who settled in Manchester from Germany in 1888 and was principal cellist with the Halle and Professor of Cello at the RMCM; Russian violinist Adolph Brodsky who was appointed Principal of the RMCM in 1896; Austrian conductor Hans Richter who was director of the Halle for 12 years from 1899.

The Royal Manchester College of Music and the Northern School of Music (established in 1920) merged in 1973 to create the modern Royal Northern College of Music.

Charles Halle did much to popularise ‘classical’ music – by having low-priced concert tickets and taking his orchestra to district venues – but it seems likely that, prior to radio and the recording industry, the world of ‘classical’ music would have been unfamiliar to most of the inhabitants of Swan Street and area and the customers of the George & Dragon. This perhaps would also have been true of the musicians who performed in the streets, pubs and coffee houses. Into the 20th century, recordings and radio would bring a wide range of music into people’s homes. In the last two decades of the 20th century it would be unexceptional to see RNCM-trained musicians or members of the Halle Orchestra performing non-classical music at Band on the Wall. More information on this trend will be provided in the next section of this history, about Band on the Wall in the 20th century.


70Manchester City Council website: ‘Manchester: Musical Metropolis’