Britain's oldest professional symphony orchestra teetered on the brink of financial ruin this week but has been saved by an emergency instruments sale. The 140-year-old, Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra reported a deficit of £1.1m. As part of a rescue plan, a 17th-century Amati violin and two Steinway pianos were sold to the orchestra's own trust fund for £200,000. The sale of the instruments, which will be leased back to the orchestra, will allow the Hallé to keep running until April, by which time a more long-term rescue plan will hopefully be approved by its principal funders to make the Hallé solvent by 2000. This plan could include reductions in the management board, increased ticket prices and a curtailment of some of the orchestra's grander projects. Board members pointed to the six-year freeze of the orchestra's £1.25m Arts Council grant as a contributing factor to the current crisis. They would not comment on possible redundancies of the orchestra's current 92 players.