Ida Haendel / Simon Rattle

Sibelius: Violin Concerto; Elgar: Violin Concerto

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Despite being widely sought as a soloist the world over, an extensive discography going back several decades with some of the world's finest conductors, and a successful solo career going back even further than that, violinist Ida Haendel does not receive all of the spotlight and acclaim as some of her contemporaries. Few violinists can claim to have received the endorsement of a composer of a standard repertoire concerto; Haendel has received two: Sibelius and Walton. Of these two, the Sibelius concerto has become one of her signature works. This Testament album features a live, 1993 recording of this concerto alongside another of Haendel's cornerstones, the Elgar Violin Concerto (recorded in 1984). Of all the performances and recordings of the Sibelius that Haendel has made, she sites this one with Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as one of her favorites. Listeners will immediately hear why. Both soloist and orchestra are in perfect synchrony, truly sharing a singular musical vision. This is difficult to achieve with multiple takes in a studio, let alone in live performance. Haendel's Sibelius is much more poised and laid back than practically any other interpretation available. She takes her time, savoring each and every note, drawing out every phrase, and peppering the entire work with her own well-placed rubato. Is her playing technically flawless? No, although it's extremely close. But listeners won't be paying attention to the technical demands of the piece. The same level of sophistication and refinement will be heard in the Elgar concerto, complete with the dazzling pyrotechnics that mark the work's finale.

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