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English Section

Polish-born violin legend Ida Haendel dies at 91

02.07.2020 16:00
Ida Haendel, a Polish-born virtuoso violinist who was widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, passed away in Miami, Florida, on Wednesday, at the age of 91.
Ida Haendel,  pictured in 2011.
Ida Haendel, pictured in 2011. Photo: PAP/CTK/Petr Eret

Born into a Polish-Jewish family in the town of Chełm, eastern Poland, on December 15, 1928, Haendel started playing the violin at the age of three.

Four years later, she became a student of the Warsaw Conservatory. She subsequently studied abroad with Carl Flesch and George Enescu.

In 1935, she became a laureate of the first International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Warsaw.

At 14, Haendel appeared as a soloist at the BBC Proms in London. She made a total of 68 appearances at the Proms, the last one in 1993.

During World War II, Haendel gave concerts for Allied troops. In 1940, she became a British subject. For several decades, she made annual tours of Europe and performed regularly in South America and Asia.

Haendel visited Poland on numerous occasions—for concerts, including one in her native Chełm in 2006, and as a jury member of the Wieniawski Violin Competition.

She performed at the site of the former Nazi German concentration camp of Auschwitz during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit there in 2006.

Her work was the focus of several documentaries, including I Am the Violin by Dutch director Paul Cohen and Ida Haendel: This is My Heritage, made by Christine Jezior for Polish Television.

In 1970, she published her autobiography, Woman with Violin.

The British daily The Guardian wrote in an obituary that Haendel “enthralled audiences around the world with a combination of classical rigour and romantic warmth.”


Click on the audio player above to listen to a report by Elżbieta Krajewska.