JS BACH Partita No 2 BWV1004 MOZART Violin Sonata
Ida Haendel, now well into her eighties, recorded this recital in Japan in 2008. Her legendary career, extending back to the 1930s, with Carl Flesch and George Enescu among her teachers, must be one of the longest for a violinist. On this album the virtuoso items – Saint-Saëns, Wieniawski, Sarasate, Brahms – show that she’s lost none of her powerful presence, nor her ability to transmit these pieces with style and with an element of showmanship that takes us back to the 19th-century heyday of virtuosity. The passing of the years is only evident in a slight lack of bow control (a closely-miked, dry recording does not help) and very occasional lapses of intonation. The movement from Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole is an oddity; played unaccompanied and including an impression of the orchestral passages, the arrangement omits much essential harmony and countermelody. However, Haendel’s performance is notable for its spirit and expressive variety.
I couldn’t warm so much to the Bach and Mozart. In the Chaconne’s polyphonic passages, Haendel’s determination to spread the chords as little as possible leads to a surfeit of fierce accents and to many important bass notes being virtually lost. In the quieter moments, however, there’s some lovely playing. Rough tone is more of a liability in the Mozart, and, unlike in the other items, Haendel’s strong projection is not always an advantage in this more intimate work, especially when her part is subsidiary to the piano – at the start of the Andante, for instance. Even so, I’d recommend you to listen; Ida Haendel still has much to offer.