Yesterday I attended Ida Haendal playing a recital. The lady next to me emitted some type of foul odor which was very hard to ignore. I moved to the other side of the auditorium at intermission.
Ms. Haendal came out in a flamboyant dress, typical of her style. What always amazes me is her small stature and apparent frailty when holding the violin... of course hearing her play dispells any of such notion.
She played Franck, which I seem to hear at 90% of the recitals played today. It was beautiful, and had the type of tonal and vibrato quality that you never hear anymore. Her shifts were gorgeous, and in some places (like the octaves in the last movement), completely knocked our socks off.
Then she played the Ciaconna, which was amazing. It reminds me of Szeryng, but not totally the same style. She kept the audience very engaged throughout.
After intermission she played a forgetable Mozart sonata. Her playing as always was of another world, I just didn't care for this piece. After she played a few showpieces... a bunch of Bartok dances and then the Wieniawski D+ polonaise. She plays this style so convincingly. The gypsy music and the more aristocratic polonaise are just incredible.
Every violinist in the audience was at once dazzled and completely embarrased that such an old lady could throw that stuff off like it was "Happy Birthday"... Haendal definately isn't one to show off, but in her old age she certainly isn't one to go soft on repertoire. That part in the polonaise that everyone dreads was played so impressively that I almost went home and practiced my thirds at 10:30 at night...
As an encore she dedicated a Bruch piece (I didn't recognize it, and I didn't hear her well enough to remember the name) to the slain reporter, Daniel Pearl of the Washington Post, who was of course assassinated on video tape. Ms. Haendal also added some thoughtful commentary which I always enjoy. Her ideas are well developed and she always speaks clearly, unlike another gentleman earlier in the evening who launched into a longwinded and entirely superfluous oration about world peace that ended up just being some big non-sequitor... I wish people would prepare their comments if they don't posess the talents of public speaking of a Winston Churchill or the like.
It was a great concert, and I feel priviledged to have seen a master perform. She really is one of the last from the "golden age" of violin playing, and in her old age I would put her playing on par or well past that of many other masters in their twilight years.
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