Ida Haendel, one of the greatest violinists of our time, is coming to Israel as
the distinguished guest of the International Master Course for Violinists Keshet
Eilon. The course takes places at the picturesque Kibbutz Eilon in the Western
Galilee between July 25 and August 12 and celebrates its 20th anniversary this
year. The program features individual lessons, masterclasses and concerts, and
culminates in a gala concert on August 4 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
Most of the activities are open to the public; country lodging is available in
Eilon and other kibbutzim in the area.
“I think I’m well,” the
81-year-old Haendel responds to a “How are you?” greeting from The Jerusalem
Post over the phone from her Miami home. “I try to breath, to walk and to play
my fiddle. Yesterday I rehearsed from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., I have quite a few
concerts in New York.”
Born in Chelm, Poland, Haendel was a child
prodigy. At the age of 3 she picked up her older sister’s violin and with the
words “I’m the one who is a violinist here,” she played a song that her mother
had just sang. A few years ago, she reconnected with her first teacher, Estera
Greenboum, after the latter moved to Los Angeles.
“I remember her
beautiful, with long beautiful fingers – and she is the same! We speak on the
phone all the time.”
The Haendels later moved to England, to advance
Ida’s studies. By the age of 12, she already knew most of the major violin
repertoire and in Paris she studied with Carl Flesch and George
“Carl Flesch was a person who had all the cures and all the
answers for people who had problems on the violin – like a fantastic physician,
who knows how to cure many illnesses,” Haendel said. “In my case, thank God, I
never had problems on the violin, maybe until this day. Musically, he was very
helpful: he explained certain things, which were very relevant and very
intelligent. The real great art of music-making was that of George
He was a composer, fantastic pianist, marvelous violinist – until
this day I cannot forget the encounter with this genius.”
What is good
schooling about? To be a wonderful musician, who understands the composition
profoundly – its structure and the whole literature of music – which is not
given to too many.
This is not a criticism – many musicians think of how
to play an instrument. But you have to master your instrument and then forget
about the technique. For me the core of it is how to play a composition, to
please not the specifically the audience, but the composer. I want people to say
after the concert not “Oh, how beautifully Ida Haendel plays,” but “What a
wonderful piece of music that was.”
SO IT is not by chance that Maestro
Zubin Mehta, who admires Haendel’s “honesty towards her music and her great
command over her instrument,” said in an interview that “When she plays the
Beethoven concerto, you can imagine Beethoven wanted it that way."
yourself teach? Only when I’m asked to. I don’t see myself as a teacher. I’m a
performer and I don’t want to impose my opinion on other performers, because the
only right way to play a piece is that of the composer, and not mine. Not long
ago a student asked me how to interpret the piece.
“But you already have the
greatest interpreter in the world in front of you!” I replied. “You mean you?”
“No, the score!” When playing for your students, you always look intensively
straight into their eyes, why so? Of course, not to hypnotize, but to penetrate
and to accentuate. But anyway, if somebody is blind, does it mean you cannot
reach him? It is all about sound.
What is unacceptable to you in a
performance? Show-off, body gyrations, as I call it. It has nothing to do with
music. If you are pretty and this is the most important thing for you, you
probably should act in a theater. Granted, out of respect to the audience and
out of self-respect, you need to look good on the stage, and I always perform in
my best dresses – (laughing) this is my privilege as a woman.
around for so many years – has anything changed in the world of music? Nothing
much. The great composers, who were the first to bring to us wonderful music,
such as Palestrina, Handel, Beethoven, as well as our contemporaries, are still
with us and I keep learning from them till this day.
PERFORMANCE has always been intense and moving. She agrees that, nowadays, there
are far too many musicians, whose performance, while being technically
infallible, is lacking emotion.
“When they say ‘Practice makes perfect,’
I’m not quite sure this is true,” she says.
“Because some people practice
12 hours a day and they still are not perfect. Granted, you need
hours, and also you need to have a teacher, but the main thing is what
talent and you are born with it. Either you have it or you don’t, so
is not going to make a difference, because you cannot fabricate what
And what is it that brings Haendel to Keshet Eilon year after
year, no matter the security situation in Israel? “The dedication that
have,” she says. “Everybody who goes there is dedicated to serve the
including the professors [course patron] Shlomo Mintz, [Artistic
Rashkovsky and others. I also call myself a servant, a servant to the
music.”For reservations: (04) 985-8131 or
(04) 985-8191; for a detailed