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Subscription Concerts

The Leeds Subscription Concerts were established in 1881. Each annual series normally consisted of seven concerts - mainly orchestral, but chamber music recitals were also programmed. Sir Charles Halle's Orchestra from Manchester was the mainstay of "The Subs", occasionally supplemented by visiting London orchestras. Orchestral and choral programmes were given in collaboration with Leeds Philharmonic Society's 320-strong chorus in both the Town Hall and the Coliseum in Cookridge Street. The latter has had a chequered existence since its opening in 1885 as a concert hall with seating for 3000 in the stalls and two balconies. After less than ten years, the concert hall was converted into a theatre with a stage and full flying system replacing the orchestra, organ, and choir seating. The Coliseum's re-birth as a theatre was not a success and in 1905 it was converted into a cinema. Since 2008, the Grade ll listed building - restored to something like the 1885 original with the splendid timber roof trusses revealed - has been enjoying a renaissance as the highly successful O2 Academy, Leeds.

Joachim in Leeds
Concerts were almost invariably given on Wednesday nights. Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) the great Hungarian violinist who took part in the first performance of the Brahms Double Concerto was a regular soloist at the Chamber events. The Joachim Quartet gave their first Leeds recital in the Town Hall on March 22nd 1899.

Sir Charles Halle's Band
Late Victorian Subscription Programmes were of generous length and miscellaneous style with songs and pianoforte solos inserted between string quartets or lengthy orchestral items. A Town Hall concert on Wednesday 26th February 1890 given by 'Sir Charles Halle's augmented band of 101 performers' was advertised 'to commence at 7.30, carriages may be ordered at 10.00'. The first half included Beethoven's Leonora No 3 Overture, his Eroica Symphony and Gounod's sacred song; 'There is a Green Hill'. The second half began with the Prelude to Wagner's sacred music drama Parsifal, continued with arias and songs by Meyerbeer and Sullivan, Berlioz' Scene D'Amour and Queen Mab Scherzo from Romeo and Juliet and Wagner’s Tannhauser overture.

Messiah at the Coliseum
Charles Villiers Stanford conducted an orchestra and chorus of over 400 performers in Handel's Messiah at the Coliseum on 21st December 1898. The contralto Soloist was the young Clara Butt.

Paderewski and Dohnanyi
Ignacy Paderewski, The renowned Polish pianist, composer and statesman who became the first President of the Polish Republic in 1919, gave the 68th Subscription Concert in Leeds Town Hall on 13th December 1893. A note in the programme described Paderewski as, 'a man of sincerity and simplicity, quite unspoiled by his great success'.

On 1st February 1899, the Hungarian pianist and composer Ernst Von Dohnanyi took part in a chamber concert including some of his own music and pieces by Brahms, Schubert and Beethoven (the Kreutzer Sonata).

Richter and the Halle
Dr Hans Richter conducted the Halle Orchestra with soloists and an unnamed chorus of 320 voices (probably Leeds Philharmonic) in a Wagner and Beethoven night on 23rd November 1910: The Good Friday Music and the Grail Scene from Act 1 of Parsifal were paired with Beethoven's Choral Symphony.

Sullivan and Elgar
Sir Arthur Sullivan's oratorio The Golden Legend, commissioned for the 1886 Leeds Triennial Festival, was revived in a performance by Leeds Symphony Orchestra and Leeds Philharmonic Chorus in February 1911. Wednesday 25th October 1911 was the date of the first Leeds performance of Elgar’s intensely lyrical Violin Concerto which had been premiered by violinist Fritz Kreisler less than 12 months earlier. The soloist in Leeds was John Dunn, with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Michael Balling.

Henry J Wood and the Queens Hall Orchestra
The Queens Hall Orchestra conducted by Sir Henry Wood gave a Subscription Concert at the Town Hall in October 1912. The programme in which the 320 strong Leeds Philharmonic chorus also took part included the first Leeds performance of Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony and Elgar's Choral Suite, from the Bavarian Highlands.

Societies amalgamate
In 1895, the Subscription Concerts had amalgamated with Leeds Philharmonic Society and appeared to go from strength to strength until the first World War (1914-1918). They successfully co-existed, alongside the Triennial Festivals and the development of concerts by Leeds-based professional orchestras which began in 1903. After World War I the Leeds Symphony Orchestra began to displace the Halle at most of the Leeds Philharmonic Society/Subscription Concerts.

Click images to enlarge
Orchestral Concert, 1889
Orchestral Concert, 1889
Pianoforte recital, 1893
Pianoforte recital, 1893
Concert, 1911
Concert, 1911
Concert, 1912
Concert, 1912
Concert at the Coliseum, 1914
Concert at the Coliseum, 1914

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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003