Yesterday, I decided to record Nemer’s “Jerusalem of Gold” to prepare for a luncheon appearance at an East Bay Jewish Community Center.
Little did I know that after reviewing my you tube upload, that I’d spot a right column of videos with Ida Haendel, a near 90-year old violinist who proved to be a gem of a musical artist. Her 2006 performance in Israel of Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs captured my attention.
The age old thinking about fiddle players, is that they decline in the technical arena, at about 60 or so. But the stereotype is undermined by a feisty “character” who’s demonstrated virtuosity and prowess well into her 80’s and beyond.
In a six-part documentary, I am the Violin, written and directed by Paul Cohen, viewers obtain a long-delayed glimpse of an ageless musician whose playing, like fine wine, has mellowed and ripened with time.
Part one provides the backdrop:
“Born in Chełm, (1923) a small city in Eastern Poland, to a Jewish family, Ida Haendel has taken up the violin at the age of three. At seven, she’s been admitted at the Warsaw Conservatory and later studies with Carl Flesch and George Enescu in Paris.” (Her father, a fine artist has given up his own career, to nurse along his daughter’s musical development)
“During World War II Ida plays in factories and for British and American troops, having ignited a career that develops after the war’s end.”
We learn that she currently lives in Miami, Florida and is actively involved with the Miami International Piano Festival but still jet sets around the world in the good company of her Strad and adorable pooch
In part 5, Ida complains that more than a few big name conductors, like Zubin Mehta and Simon Rattle had stopped working with her because they were seeking youthful, fresh faces. (“mediocrities,” in many cases)
“Why don’t they discover the ones who are already there,” she proclaims, in repudiation of pervasive age discrimination combined with sexism that feasts on the “new and young.” (She still snugly fits into a snazzy concert dress that she wore at 18–It’s “cherry”-colored, purchased in Madrid during one of her European tours. She holds it up for a camera close-up earlier in the documentary)
The complete film minus crackling popcorn and other distractions is recommended because Ida’s interspersed performances deserve undivided attention.
Finally, one comment posted by a you tuber sums up the scope of the maestra’s artistry:
“It’s hard to tell whether she’s an extension of the violin strings or the violin is an extension of her heart!”
I’d say she’s both, and more….
May she live to well past 100, sharing her gifts with a vast, appreciative audience!
Brava, Ida Haendel!
The complete documentary:
TRAILER to This is My Heritage, another well-produced tribute.