Violinist Ida Haendel (1928-2020) remains in the memory of those who heard her in person as one of the great violinists of the 20th century. The possessor of tremendous technique and an artist of passionate musicality she can be heard in a series of three compact discs (SWR CLASSIC 19427) that feature her playing under the baton of Hans Müller-Kray, chief conductor of the Radio-Sinfonieochester Stuttgart before 1967.
The collection includes: Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77; Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64; Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35; Dvořák Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53; Khachaturian Violin Concerto in D Minor; Bartók Violin Concerto No. 2.
There is very little left to be said about the extraordinary Ida Haendel. Her music-making is injected with tremendous strength tempered with maturity and impeccable taste. In the Andante movements of the Brahms, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos she spins a seamless legato line as if her Stradivarius were a human voice. And her endurance in long movements, like the opening Allegro of the Brahms violin concerto is remarkable, even for a then young violinist in her early thirties and in the early stages of her career.
In the Allegretto of the Mendelssohn concerto and in the finale of the Tchaikovsky concerto she takes both tempi in coordination with Maestro Müller-Kray at a nice clip but not so fast as to distort articulation and clarity. There is not in her playing one iota of the sort of grandstanding in which many of today’s younger violinists like to indulge themselves, often at the expense of elegance and sobriety – two sterling qualities intrinsic to Ida Haendel’s playing.
In the great Romantic works – Brahms, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky – Ida Haendel had few peers, yet she expanded her repertoire to include some of the off-the-beaten path works by Khachaturian and Bartók, both of whose violin concertos are included here and to both of which Ida Haendel gave the same attention as she bestowed on the staples of the violinist’s repertoire. Ever elegant, ever noble, ever a servant of the composer, Ida Haendel’s playing lives on in this excellent collection.
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