• 1928 — 2020
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The respect held by other musicians for the talents of violinist Ida Haendel was almost as total as her obscurity in the mind of the general public. What commanded this respect was her large tone, assured and dedicated technique, and refreshing musicality.
Haendel was born on December 15, 1928, in Chelm, Poland, and took up the violin at the age of three. She won her first competition, the Huberman Prize, when she was five, playing Beethoven's Violin Concerto, and was a finalist at the age of seven in the Wieniawski Competition. She and her parents traveled around Western Europe for a few years, during which time she did some studies with Enescu. Eventually, the family settled in London, where she was a student of Carl Flesch. In 1937, she made her first appearance at the Promenade concerts, where she continued to perform until late in life. It was around the time of her 1939 debut with Sir Henry Wood that the debate over her age developed. At the time, London would not allow children under the age of 14 to perform on Sundays, so 11-year-old Ida and her manager lied about her age in order for her to play. During World War II, Haendel played for English troops and participated in Myra Hess' National Gallery concerts. She also made many recordings during the early 1940s, but it wasn't until she toured the U.S. in 1946 and began annual tours of Europe, as well as appearing in South America and Asia, that her name began to be known outside of England. She and her family moved to Canada in 1952, but she split her time between Miami and London. She was the soloist invited to tour China with John Pritchard and the London Philharmonic in 1973.
Haendel's signature pieces were the concertos of Sibelius, Elgar, Walton, Brahms, and Britten. Both Sibelius and Walton personally praised her performances of their works. She premiered Dallapiccola's Tartiniana seconda in 1957 and Allan Pettersson's Violin Concerto No. 2, which was dedicated to her, in 1980. Haendel was given the Sibelius Prize in 1982 and created a Commander of the British Empire in 1991. While not as well recognized as she should have been, she continued to be a much-sought-after soloist by conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, and Seiji Ozawa and was admired by younger violinists such as Anne-Sophie Mutter and Maxim Vengerov. Haendel died on July 1, 2020, in Pembroke Park, Florida.