The centrepiece of this re-release is Ida Haendel’s 1945-46 recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto. It’s well selected, as her later LP re-make with Eugene Goossens and the RPO is the better known. The 78 set was accompanied by the hard-working National Symphony Orchestra under Basil Cameron and indeed Cameron has conductorial duties to himself throughout, the disc being as much a tribute to him as to the youthful Haendel.
Whatever age she was when she made it - speculation is still rife as to whether she was born in 1924 or 1928 - she reveals a buoyant musicality for one so young. Checking the Decca details one finds that the majority of the concerto was recorded on 26 April 1945 but that the first side of the first movement and its cadenza were re-taken on 6 February1946. Haendel’s is quicksilver, characterful fiddling, still somewhat in thrall to those famed ‘Heifetz Slides’ of which there are enough in the recording to make one wonder whether she’d heard his 78 set, or to speculate on how often she had heard him in recital. Occasionally there are a few outsize gestures, ones that wear less well on repetition, such as one very noticeable gulped slide in the slow movement but she changes tone colour very adeptly in the finale and plays with plenty of conviction. Cameron, himself an old fiddle player, accompanies well. The orchestra is firmly committed too, whilst not claiming to be the last word in precision. It was, in any case, a very busy band and was very active in Decca’s studios. The list of conductors who made records with it at around this time is extensive, but for the nostalgic here’s a partial list: Sidney Beer, Heinz Unger, Malcolm Sargent, Fistoulari, Karl Rankl, Walter Goehr, Boyd Neel, Reginald Goodall, Enrique Jorda, Warwick Braithwaite, Victor Olof, Stanford Robinson and mighty Albert Coates.
There’s one puzzling cut in the first movement of the Concerto, which sounds very jarring, and as for the transfer there is one poor side-join in the finale. Elsewhere, too, this company’s expertise in LP restoration is not really mirrored in its reputation with 78s.
The rest of the programme is given over to Cameron’s work on LP with the London Philharmonic. There are two movements, only, from the Karelia
Suite and just the Musette
from King Christian II
. This is charmingly done, as is the Valse triste
but I can’t say that it reveals very much about either repertory or conducting strengths. This light fare is supplemented by a recording in 1951 of Kodály’s Dances from Galánta.
This is a more than respectable reading - I think, or at least hope, that the days of writing off Cameron as a stodgy time-beater are past - but it can’t in all honesty compete with Solti’s near-contemporaneous reading with the same orchestra.
It’s certainly good to hear Haendel’s Tchaikovsky and the inevitably popular Sibelius selection and the Kodály. It all functions as a dual salute to Haendel and to Cameron.
Masterwork Index: Tchaikovsky violin concerto