Magazine article Musical Opinion

Elgar:Violin Concerto/Sibelius:Violin Concerto

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Elgar:Violin Concerto/Sibelius:Violin Concerto

Article excerpt

Elgar:Violin Concerto/ Sibelius:Violin Concerto

Ida Haendel/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra /Simon Rattle


Testament SBT 1 444

[I hour 20 minutes]

While the CBSO seems to be bucking the depressing trend by continuing to be sought after for new recordings by commercial companies (having Andris Nelsons as a hot-property music director is a great asset), there is also a still largely untapped fund of material to be found in archives, not least those of the BBC. The Testament label has done us an immense service by unearthing two fabulous performances of concertos featuring the superlative violinist Ida Haendel and the CBSO conducted by Simon Rattle, both broadcast live by the BBC. The transfers are clear and immediate, authence noise is at a minimum (they were obviously gripped by these amazing accounts), and the quality of this release is matched by generous quantity: just under 80 minutes-worth of extraordinary music-making. Both these concertos (Sibelius and Elgar) have been recorded commercially by the CBSO and Rattle with Nigel Kennedy, but with all due respect to that gifted artist, what Ida Haendel achieves in penetrating to the very heart and essence of this music is something special.

It's apparent right from the opening of the Sibelius (recorded at a BBC Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in 1993, produced by Pebble Mill's Jeremy Hayes). Haendel and Rattle's orchestra immediately create a sense of loneliness in a glacial, Nordic landscape before the soloist takes the music by the scruff of the neck, projecting her tone imperiously, and busily bowing across the strings. The slow movement is well-shaped, building towards a shattering climax, before a scudding finale, the CBSO enthusiastic collaborates, and with whistling harmonics from the soloist before the powerful conclusion. No wonder Sibelius wrote to Ida Haendel after a much earlier performance (in Helsinki in 1949) in these terms: "Please accept my most cordial thanks for your kind letter and first of all for your excellent performance of my Violin Concerto which I was delighted to hear. …

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