Sibelius: Violin Concerto, Serenades, Humoresque / Haendel, Berglund
Emi Classics Encore
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs:
0 Hours 51 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Ida Haendel’s accounts of Sibelius’s concerto and other works for violin and orchestra from July 1975 reappear in startlingly lively reengineered sound in EMI’s “Encore” series. Haendel studied with teachers as important and diverse as Carl Flesch and Georges Enescu; and her playing of the concerto combines Enescu’s freedom with Flesch’s discipline, Enescu’s exotic passion with Flesch’s academic seriousness. The concerto, especially in its revised form, shuttles, in performances like Heifetz’s (especially the early one with Beecham), between menace and outright terror. Haendel’s reading seems at first to achieve both effects to an incomparable degree, but after a few passages it becomes clear that intimidation’s not only her modus operandi
but her almost sole focus—she plays with incredible strength and determination, often grinding out passages at tempos that seem almost willfully deliberate (as in the figuration near the climax of the second movement) and maintaining an almost pugilistic attitude in passages that could provide a conciliatory contrast. There’s no gainsaying her imposing command of the technical and musical requirements, nor the thrilling effect her slashing style can achieve in a steely work like this one, nor even the experience of hearing the work from a violinist who’s certainly one of the last of the strong-minded soloists who bestrode the last century’s stages like colosses. So, while later, more highly nuanced performances, like Vengerov’s with Barenboim, may open more of the work’s facets to contemplation, there’s still, in Haendel’s playing, the thrill of hearing the steam engine roar by, simple and relatively uncomplicated though that experience might be.
The booklet notes cite Haendel’s as the first recording of the two Serenades (although Igor Bezrodny’s on a Russian label preceded it); and nearly 30 years later they still haven’t attracted a great deal of attention. Haendel seems to have adjusted her approach to their lighter, more playful nature. But Tetzlaff’s less mannered way with the First (Virgin 7243 5 45534 2 4, 26:6) and Mutter’s languid yearning in the Second (Deutsche Grammophon 447-895-2) provide more than simple challenges. The Third of the
Humoresques, op. 89 (the tantalizing “Commodo”), brings the program to a conclusion that suggests a progression from darkness to light—although there’s more of Uma Thurman (
Kill Bill) than of Maurice Chevalier about her way with this jaunty bon-bon.
Ida Haendel’s playing commands attention in an old-fashioned way that many younger players seem to have eschewed. However one might second-guess the choices she makes in individual passages, they emanate from a personality determined enough to vie with that of the composer for attention. Some violinists may cherish the hope that an evening of their Sibelius will prompt listeners to respond directly to Sibelius. In Haendel’s case, there’s no getting around her: it’s not just the composer’s, but Haendel’s Sibelius, too. For some that may seem an obstacle to full satisfaction. But if I could hear Homer reciting the
Iliad, I’d be as riveted by hearing Homer’s voice as by the great epic itself. Homer, Haendel—both strongly recommended.
Robert Maxham, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D minor, Op. 47 by Jean Sibelius
Ida Haendel (Violin)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1903-1905; Finland
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