Paavo Berglund;  Ida Haendel  -  Sibelius   (8-EMI 744852)
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Paavo Berglund;  Ida Haendel  -  Sibelius   (8-EMI 744852)
C0182. PAAVO BERGLUNG Cond. Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra & Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra: The Complete Symphonies & Tone Poems; w. IDA HAENDEL: Violin Concerto (Sibelius). (E.U.) 8-EMI 744852, in Boxed Set. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 724357448529


“Paavo Berglund, a Finnish conductor renowned for his commanding interpretations of Sibelius’ symphonies and tone poems, was a conductor of the old, authoritarian school. His uncompromising podium manner, at a time when conductors were expected to lead through gentle persuasion, sometimes created friction with orchestral players, who saw him as dictatorial. But the insights he brought to the music at hand typically prevailed. His style was straightforward, without flashiness. In a review of his United States debut, with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 1978, John Rockwell, writing in THE NEW YORK TIMES, noted Mr. Berglund’s ‘unglamorous podium appearance, far from the blow-dried, television announcer norm of the day’.

Mr. Berglund’s Sibelius performances combined intense scholarship and a level of interpretive license that could be surprising. After an early performance of the Sibelius Seventh with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra convinced him that the published version of the work was riddled with errors - the Orchestra had played from parts that Sibelius corrected by hand - he searched out the manuscript and prepared a new version. He published an account of his findings, ‘A Comparative Study of the Printed Score and the Manuscript of the Seventh Symphony of Sibelius’, in 1970. But though he revered Sibelius, he could be critical of the composer’s orchestration as well. He made changes when he felt Sibelius had misjudged an effect. ‘The way I conduct a Sibelius symphony is very different from the manuscript’, Mr. Berglund said in an interview in 1995. ‘It will naturally sound horrible when I say that Sibelius wrote downright poorly. Just about everything has to be corrected’.

And as demonstrated by his surveys of the symphonies - recorded with the Bournemouth Symphony in the ’70s, the Helsinki Philharmonic in the ’80s and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in the ’00s - his views of the works changed over the years. The earlier sets prize the music’s dark, Nordic grandeur as well as its clarity of texture.

In 1952 Mr. Berglund founded the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra and was its first conductor. He also took a position as an assistant conductor with the radio orchestra and was elevated to chief conductor in 1962. During his decade at the orchestra’s helm, he toured Europe and the Soviet Union with it.

Mr. Berglund made his British debut in 1965, leading a Sibelius centenary concert with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He became principal conductor in Bournemouth in 1972, and took over the podium of the Helsinki Philharmonic in 1975. After he gave up both posts, in 1979, and devoted himself mostly to guest conducting for several years before becoming the principal conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, from 1987 to 1991, and the Royal Danish Orchestra, from 1993 to 1998. He appeared with several major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic.

Mr. Berglund was said to have had a direct link to Sibelius, who provided important encouragement in the early years of his conducting career, but he played down the connection. ‘I didn’t know Sibelius personally’, he told the Finnish music critic Vesa Siren, describing his meeting with the composer in the early 1950s as little more than a brief exchange. ‘He asked me if we played Schönberg. I said that we didn’t. That was the whole conversation’.”

- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1 Feb., 2012

“Ida Haendel, the Polish-born prodigy with a fiery sound and unassailable technique who became one of the foremost violinists of her generation, was a student of the noted pedagogue Carl Flesch and the composer, pianist and violinist George Enescu, Ms. Haendel was a living link to an early-20th-century school of violin playing centered on simmering sound and dramatic phrasing. In lyrical passages, her ardent vibrato and swooping portamento lent her playing a strong vocal character, while her articulation in virtuosic passagework could be crisp to the point of percussive.

An example is her 1955 recording of the Brahms concerto with Sergiu Celibidache, a conductor with whom she had a close and sometimes tumultuous working relationship. Her signature piece was the Sibelius Violin Concerto which she played with a contained urgency that the critic Geoffrey Norris in THE TELEGRAPH of London once described as ‘fire and ice’ and ‘mind-blowing’. After a 1949 performance in Helsinki, Sibelius wrote her a letter and congratulated himself ‘for having found a performer of your standard’.

Until the 1980s, Ms. Haendel was virtually the only woman among the top tier of concert violinists. In later decades she complained about being sidelined by younger players in a market that prized attractive new faces. But well into her 80s she embraced any opportunity to play. In a 2004 documentary by the Dutch director Paul Cohen, she declared matter-of-factly, ‘I am the violin’.

The cellist Steven Isserlis, who played Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Ms. Haendel and the pianist Martha Argerich, said Ms. Haendel’s music making always conveyed passion. ‘It was strong, vibrant, focused and came from right deep inside her’, he said in a phone interview. ‘She really was the violin - there was no separation’.

Ms. Haendel, then living [in London], gave her first Proms concert in 1937 at the Queens Hall, playing the Beethoven concerto under the direction of Henry Wood. Her family was Jewish, and her father, who was in London with her and sensed that war was imminent, arranged for Ida’s mother and sister to join them in Britain. They became British citizens. During the war, Ms. Haendel performed for British and American troops and was featured in the morale-boosting concerts at the National Gallery put on by the pianist Myra Hess.

She entered into a fruitful artistic collaboration with the conductor Rafael Kubelik, with whom she recorded Bruch’s first violin concerto in 1948 and Beethoven’s in 1951. She also worked with the conductors Thomas Beecham, Charles Munch, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Simon Rattle, among others.

Her advocacy for the concertos written by Britten and Walton helped bring them into the mainstream. She also performed the premiere of Allan Pettersson’s second violin concerto in 1980 and was the dedicatee of Luigi Dallapiccola’s ‘Tartiniana Seconda’ in 1957. She was one of the first Western soloists to be invited to perform in China, part of a 1973 tour with the London Philharmonic.

Ms. Haendel moved to Montreal in 1952 and several decades later settled in Miami Beach. She lived in a house that she had bought for her father so he could be near the writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, a close friend. She never married. She spoke of feeling unattractive and invisible to men. ‘Not only my father thought of me as an instrument only’, she said in one interview. Asked in the 2004 documentary what it had been like to be a child prodigy, she said, ‘I was old’, adding, ‘I’m more of a child now’.

Ms. Haendel traveled in 2006 to Auschwitz, where she played the Prayer from the ‘Dettingen Te Deum’ by Handel for a delegation including Pope Benedict XVI. Her recorded performance of the simple melody is impassioned, her tone anguished yet irrepressibly vibrant.

He said she often returned to a memory from early childhood. When she was a little girl practicing, her father would be listening in the other room and he would say, ‘I hear what you’re playing, but what does it mean?’ That question stayed with her, her entire life.”

- Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2020