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Violin Concerto; Bach: Chaconne from Partita in D minor

Ida Haendel (violin), London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult

Testament SBT 1146

Recorded: 1977-1995

I have this image in my mind of a father and daughter standing arm-in- arm, scanning London's skyline through a veil of shared memories. Elgar's music is about putting on a brave face, with love, pain and nostalgia in attendance, and this wonderful performance gets the balance more or less right. Boult was in his late eighties at the time, Haendel well into her fifties, and yet the blend of songfulness on the one hand and sighing reflectiveness on the other reaches the very heart of Elgar's most personal orchestral work.

Boult is affectionate almost to a fault - it's as if he had somehow summoned the spirit of Sir John Barbirolli for the occasion - and Haendel responds with a Heifetzian level of intensity. Jump in at the finale, at say 2' 20" into track 3 and just listen to that tone, warm as Kreisler's - appropriately so, given that Kreisler was the Concerto's first soloist - yet falling somewhere short of overstatement. The pace is extraordinarily broad throughout, so that by the time we reach the ghostly accompanied cadenza (rumbling plucked strings with the soloist sailing high above them), the effect is even more disquieting than usual. The recording is marvellous, too - an Abbey Road job, just like the more famous one that Menuhin made under Elgar's own baton some forty years earlier.

The concerto sessions date from the late 1970s, whereas seventeen years later Haendel gave one of the finest accounts ever recorded of Bach's Chaconne for unaccompanied violin. At over eighteen minutes, it conveys a world of wisdom and nobility reminiscent of Sir Adrian's Elgar.

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