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Ida Haendel: Prague Recordings, 1957-1965

Haendel / Holecek / Czech Po / Prague Sym
Release Date: 08/12/2014 
Label:  Supraphon   Catalog #: 4162   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Alexander GlazunovHenri WieniawskiGiuseppe TartiniIgor Stravinsky,   ... 
Performer:  Ida HaendelAlfred Holecek
Conductor:  Václáv SmetácekKarel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony OrchestraCzech Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It is remarkable that Ida Haendel has maintained an eight-decade career and at the age of eight-five, in 2013, she was still taking master-classes in London. Last year I reviewed a release of a recital she gave just months short of her eightieth birthday and was amazed by the state of her technique.

The present 5-CD set has just been released and documents Haendel’s connection with this great city. The compilation includes all the recordings she made on her infrequent visits to Prague, both live and studio. The majority of the ‘live’ airings were produced by Czech Radio and are here appearing on CD for the first time. Several have been released previously, so Haendel collectors may stumble across some duplications. However,
Read more one thing is certain, this set is of documentary value in showcasing this great lady at her peak.

A child prodigy, Haendel was born in Chelm, Poland. She took up the violin at the age of three, inspired by her father who was an amateur fiddle player. At four she went on to study with Miecyzs?aw Michalowicz at the Warsaw Conservatory, winning a gold medal at ten. She later studied with Carl Flesch, whose famous pupils include Henryk Szeryng, Ginette Neveu, Szymon Goldberg and Ivry Gitlis. Later, she had the good fortune to be mentored by George Enescu, whose name is closely associated with Yehudi Menuhin. In 1935 she won a prize at the first Wieniawski Competition in Warsaw. Since that time she has sustained a high profile international career.

To the first CD is assigned shorter pieces for violin and piano, all accompanied by Alfred Hole?ek. Haendel draws a big full-bodied tone in the Kreisler Preludium and the Paganini Moses Fantasy. The ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata opens with elegance and charm with the trills in the second movement rhythmically pointed. Kroll’s Banjo and Fiddle calls to mind Michael Rabin’s compelling recording for its dash and bravura. The Brahms and Bartók pieces are suavely nuanced and imbued with a gypsy flavour.

The live Beethoven sonatas are all first-time CD releases, the Op. 30s being from 1957 and the Kreutzer taped five years later in 1962. Each is partnered by Alfred Hole?ek, who is a very responsive collaborator. The piano in no way assumes a passive role, this is most certainly a partnership of equals, with both performers acquitting themselves with distinction. There is drama and energy in the first movement of Op. 30 no. 2. The sublime slow movement is imbued with a wistful and nostalgic aroma and the Scherzo is spiky and capricious. The Kreutzer is magisterial and played with intelligence and authority. It is the G major Op. 30 no. 3 which disappoints, with first movement phrases sounding clipped. The recording engineers have achieved an ideal balance between the instruments in both venues. Applause is retained, which positively adds to the live atmosphere.

It is a novelty to hear the Beethoven Romances with piano accompaniment. I have always admired these pieces for their simplicity and melodic invention. Haendel delivers expressive and eloquent accounts, but the F major begins a little too slow and, on the whole, sounds rather self-conscious. The Stravinsky Concerto is a welcome addition to her discography, as Haendel never recorded this work commercially. This is a little scrappy ensemble-wise in parts, but this a minor drawback. The Tzigane is dispatched with imagination and flair.

The Sibelius Concerto was almost a calling card for Haendel, featuring prominently throughout her career. Indeed, the composer himself praised her on her rendition of his concerto. It is poignant, and a great tribute to Sibelius that this 1957 concert took place only a month after his death. I do prefer these live takes in preference to the studio recordings. There is much more spontaneity, passion and fire, with the violinist responding to the presence of an audience and the inspiration of the live event. Karel An?erl shows himself a supportive partner, sensitive to the nuances of the violin. I haven’t heard the live Sibelius with Rattle on Testament to compare.

I’ve always loved Haendel’s Symphonie Espagnole, considering it the finest in the catalogue. It is gripping and highly-charged stuff. She seems to me fully inside this music radiating a tone of burning intensity. An?erl offers an alert accompaniment. In the Glazunov she brings to the score a wealth of tonal colour. The Wieniawski is a virtuoso tour de force and in the third movement, whilst she doesn’t quite match Heifetz’s quicksilver dexterity, there’s some sparkling fingerwork.

Supraphon have produced an extremely attractive package. Booklet notes are in English, German, French and Czech. Sound quality throughout is top-notch. As I have said, there are some duplications, but this should not deter prospective buyers from taking the plunge, for the terrific playing on offer.

– MusicWeb International (Stephen Greenbank) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 82 by Alexander Glazunov
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Václáv Smetácek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Russia 
2.
Concerto for Violin no 2 in D minor, Op. 22 by Henri Wieniawski
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Václáv Smetácek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1862; St. Petersburg, Russ 
3.
Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo in G minor, B g5 "Devil's Trill" by Giuseppe Tartini
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Václáv Smetácek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Prague Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
4.
Divertimento for Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Alfred Holecek (Piano), Ida Haendel (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; France 
5.
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1905; Finland 
Date of Recording: 10/18/1957 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague 
Length: 32 Minutes 49 Secs. 
6.
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/18/1957 
Venue:  Rudolfinum, Prague 
Length: 43 Minutes 10 Secs. 
7.
Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21 by Edouard Lalo
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; France 
8.
Tzigane for Violin and Orchestra by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Ida Haendel (Violin)
Conductor:  Karel Ancerl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; France 

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