On the 30th of June 2020 in Miami Ida Haendel – the great woman violinist – has died aged 91. Or maybe aged 92, 96 or 97? Rumour has it that she had several birth certificates with different dates.
She herself says that the confusion with dates originated in 1937 in London, when she was to perform as a child prodigy in Covent Garden. However, at the last moment it was decided that children under 14 years old can’t take part in the concert. Then Ida’s agent and her father convinced the organizers that that’s exactly her age…
For sure she was born in Chełm, in a Jewish family. She began playing the violin at the age of 3. She had the best teachers: Carl Flesch and George Enescu. She quickly started her triumphal march through the most renowned concert halls in the world and played with the most eminent orchestras.
She was twice (in 1986 and 2006) a juror at the Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition in Poznan, and long before – its laureate. She won the 7th place (the best one in the Polish team) in the 1st edition of the contest held in 1935 in Warsaw.
‘I was 8 years old at that time – I can’t lie and say it was the most important competition in my life. I don’t really remember it. They told me to play the best I could, so I did it’, she recounted with disarming honesty in 2006.
She performed with Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra in AMU Concert Hall on the 3rd of November 2006. She took over the audience the moment she entered the stage, gallantly accompanied by Łukasz Borowicz who made his debut with Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra then. He conducted the Violin Concerto in D minor by Jean Sibelius. No wonder she selected this piece – throughout her life she’s been considered an unmatched interpreter of that composer.
‘Unfortunately, I’ve never met Sibelius personally, though many people seem to think that’, she said. ‘However, he wrote me an unusual letter. It was after my concert in Helsinki which he listened via radio in his house in Järvenpää. I congratulate you, he wrote, a magnificent performance of my concert, but I congratulate myself even more that my concert found a violinist who can play it so well…
’ In her artistic life Ida Handel was always faithful to the principle that a violinist shouldn’t create anything new, but stay loyal to the composer, and have – just like her – a great respect for the score. ‘A composer is the most important. We are only impersonators whose job is to convey what he created in the most accurate possible way. My father always said that the score is a book that you have to be able to read. That’s why I do everything I can to please the composer, though I’m never sure if I succeed. I simply can’t check with Wieniawski or Bach if I play well. Maybe someday, up there, I will…’
Maybe she will ask them now…?
* Ida Haendel’s statements come from Anna Plenzler’s article entitled “Lady With the Violin” (Kaleidoscope, January 2007).