Amazing portraits of Ida Haendel, 89

Amazing portraits of Ida Haendel, 89


norman lebrecht

September 15, 2017

A Dutch medical student, Jelle Pieter de Boer, has produced some stunning photographs of the great violinist, who lives in retirement in Miami.

Two samples.


See more here.


  • Ungeheuer says:

    Amazing? I consider them harrowing and undignifying thus unpublishable.

  • Nick says:

    Having twice engaged Ms. Haendel, I also find they do not convey the feisty but lovely lady I got to know quite well. Aside from her performances, I especially recall her hats. She was seldom without some simple but wonderful creations which she wore with style and elegance.

  • Myrtar says:

    I also don’t think these pictures represent a person known for her very strong character and charisma. The documentary “I am the violin” was a better sneak peak at the life of one of the last violinists of the Golden Age.

  • Bruce says:

    This one was my favorite:

    She looks ready to take on whatever else life has in store.

    It is indeed possible to be a beautiful old lady.

  • Dan P. says:

    I found the series of pictures remarkably touching – a very elderly lady living her last days alone (?) among the artifacts of a remarkable and very rich life and career. She has certainly lived her life in art. I noticed the portrait of her in her younger days on the mantle piece and on the floor leaning against the couch a portrait of the Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, the great Jewish Orthodox leader in New York. What particularly struck me was the contrast between the photos. There’s one showing the many paintings on the walls of the many spacious rooms representing her long life of culture lived well around the world and then there is the photo of her alone at her small kitchen table for one. Among the items of a life lived alone are a box of tea bags and the bottle of Kraft Thousand Island salad dressing and she’s feeding her small dog by hand. It really got to me.

  • Unfortunately, these “art portraits” make the one pictured therein looks like someone suffering terminated illness and spending her last days in a mental asylum completely isolated from the rest of the world. Worldwide respected musicians like Ida Haendel certainly deserve much better treatment than this.

    • Dan P. says:

      I think one honors someone by being honest about them. After all, these are not publicity photos nor a memorial display. These are pictures of life as she is now living it. I suspect this was what they were intended to display. I don’t see what you see. What I see in these photos is a very strong person, still playing the violin, living her life among those objects she loves. Old age is not for the faint of heart. These photos may not be pretty in the conventional sense, but they tell us quite a lot about Ida Haendel’s life now and some of that is quite remarkable. At least that’s what I see in them.

    • I fully respect your own perception and valuation of these pictures, Dan! The photographer will be happy to know that there are people who enjoy these pictures.

      But I personally don’t like them at all and I just shared my own feeling when looking at these images. Maybe I am not the only person in the world who looks at it this way. I must say there is a huge gap between the person portrayed there and the Ida Haendel I know and appreciate.

      • Dan P. says:

        I understand that you prefer to see Ms. Haendel as she was in her prime. I’m sure a lot of people do too. It’s reasonable enough. What I’m talking about, though, is not enjoyment – these pictures aren’t enjoyable in any way – but simply an insight into someone’s life, that’s all. Perhaps we are all too interested in the personal lives of public figures. I’d have to agree with you on that count.

        Maybe being closer to Ms. Haendel’s age than, say, to our current young prize winners, I look at it from a different perspective. Or, maybe it’s having seen those musical idols of my youth grow old and pass away from close quarters. It’s just a part of the circle of life we all experience.

        But as I always say, there’s no reason why everyone has to see things from the same perspective as anyone else. It would be a VERY dull world if we did. (And, I’d have very few friends if I limited friendship to those who agreed with me! I’d basically be talking to myself.)

        All best

  • Terry Van Vliet says:

    Thanks to the Dutch medical student who took these incredibly fine photographs of a woman of exquisite beauty in her old age. Very touching and a wonderful tribute to a great artist who obviously was very pleased to allow these photos to be taken. What is wrong, by the way, with being old and looking old?

    Herr Ungrheuer get a life. Bitte!

  • Jane says:

    I think these photos and their subject look magnificent. A grand, ancient oak is no daffodil and doesn’t need to be made to look like one.

  • Marg says:

    I think they are simply wonderful, and I assum Ms Handel is comfortable with having them published. they give me a sense of a very much alive and full of life woman, feisty, attentive to the detail of her clothing and outfits, and engaged with art and music and life. What a testimonial to a life wonderfully lived and still being lived!

  • Cyril Blair says:

    She looks amazing and wonderful, as does her apartment. A real human being. The photographs are a wonderful antidote to all the airbrushed, anodyne, prepackaged, youthful crap that the glamor media pushes on us.

    • It’s OK if you happen to like these pics. But why do you hate beauty and youth? Because you don’t have?

      • Bruce says:

        Look up “anodyne,” “prepackaged,” and “airbrushed” and you will see that Mr. Blair does not hate beauty & youth, but rather the artificial presentation of it (and, I suspect, the idea that youth & beauty in a performing artist are more important than maturity and depth.).

        Here is a good resource:

      • Thx for the help. But that dict still fails to explain what exactly an anodyne youthful crap is supposed to be and why people would prefer an unpackaged old crap instead.

        Ida Haendel’s artistic maturity and depth shine through his violin playing, not so much in these aggressively photoshopped, horror-film-styled pictures. On cover photos people expect to see someone like Johansson Scarlett. Why not combine the best of both worlds?

        • Bruce says:

          There’s a saying you may know: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Basically it means that what each of us finds beautiful is up to us as individuals. Nobody gets to decide what someone else thinks.

          Those of us trying to convince you to see the beauty in these pictures are wasting our time — just as you are wasting your time trying to convince us not to see it.


        • I personally would not go so far as to say it’s a complete waste of time. Maybe in the long run I will suddenly or gradually discover the beauty you are talking about, just as you may also change your mind one day. In the end of the day, aesthetics is not physics law, it is not static absolute truth. The bottom line is that we still talk to each other.

          My concern is actually not about whether these pictures are beautiful or not. I accept that everyone can look at them in her own way. However, what disturbs me a little bit is that some people seem like these pics just because they admire Ida Haendel so much. At the same time, they disrespectfully generalize the younger generation of stars as “mass-produced, superficial youth crap”, just because they don’t like some of the more distinguished representatives among them. Why can’t we just love the beauty in our eyes without belittling other’s babes.

          • Bruce says:

            Again, I didn’t get the impression that Cyril Blair was belittling youth and beauty for its own sake (although it’s possible I was wrong) — rather, I thought he was deploring the artificiality of the packaging & presentation thereof. Nothing wrong with being young & beautiful, of course. But it helps if you have something to say through your art.

            Martha Argerich was young & beautiful once upon a time 🙂 What sustained her career, though, was her musicianship and her virtuosity rather than her gorgeous DG cover photos. Now she’s old and beautiful, and has at least as many fans as she had when she was young. (Side note: I “discovered” Martha Argerich, for myself at least, when I was about 15, and immediately fell in love with her playing. I would tell my friends about her, and as soon as they found out she was a young, pretty competition winner they would turn up their noses and say she was trying to build a career on her looks, and besides they weren’t interested in competition winners. Plus ça change…)

            I think you’re exactly right that some people admire these photos because they admire Ms. Haendel. Personally I’m not familiar with her playing, but the same fiery spirit that people admire in her playing seems to be looking out of her eyes in these pictures.

        • It’s a nice trick that you just implied beauty does exist in these pics and those who do not see it must be blind. However, you may know the story of the emperor’s new clothes.

          • Bruce says:

            One of my favorite picture-books as a child. Thank you!

          • Bruce says:

            P.S. I probably should have phrased it more like “we’re wasting our time trying to make you see what we see, and you’re wasting your time trying to make us see what you see.” I agree that it’s not always a waste of time, but it almost always is.

          • Well, I think we are good.

            About Martha Argerich. I wasn’t fortunate enough to witness her rising career as a young star in the LP era. Only until recently when I came across an old LP of her in a second-hand store, did I realize how beautiful she looked as a young girl, especially on large, printed(!) LP covers! Her beauty and charm was simply staggering. She still look amazing today, but that’s something different.

            I have to agree that many young stars nowadays are far less tastefully photographed and styled for record covers and press photos. And then they have to live with the smallish format of CD booklets. Things are getting even worse now, because more often than not people are watching them on even smaller screens, namely those of the smartphones, which aren’t even “real”.

  • John says:

    Wonderful portraits of a vibrant and important artist. I hope I look half as alive and engaged at 89 as dear Ida is.

  • Alex Davies says:

    She has surprisingly long fingernails for a violinist.

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    When seen full screen on a good display these photos have richness and depth that do justice to their subject. de Boer has done a marvelous job.

    • AMetFan says:

      Several insightful observations in the approval camp, including the above one. Increasingly we worship a youth culture–plastic surgery and dyed hair being particularly pathetic manifestations. I see an honesty and life in the face of these portraits, deeply felt and reflective, which is even richer if you are familiar wth Ms. Haendel’s artistry. I’m not old, but I am mature enough to honor a life well lived, especially in their tercera edad. She is beautiful and wise to allow herself to be documented by such a sensitive photographer.

  • Jamesay says:

    An extraordinary artist and vibrant human being. It’s ok not to “like” these observations of an older person but ffs don’t object to or try run from the fact that if we are all lucky enough to get to this age we will all age, gracefully or ungracefully. I find these photographs astonishing and having met this uniquely candid musician I’m not surprised that she’s faced age with the same characterful dignity and spirit that she brought to her music making. Go Ida!

  • Elisabeth Matesky says:

    Having met Ida Haendel at aged 67, here at the Ravinia Festival which is ‘home’ to our Chicago Symphony Orchestra every Summer, she ‘looked’ gorgeous, full of life, lovely & vibrant! Having just performed Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with our
    CSO under the exquisite Baton of Gennadi Rozdetsvensky, we spent well over 2
    & 1/3 hours talking about many aspects of Ms. Haendel’s career and Life! (Being a Violnist & having concertised quite extensively), perhaps she felt comfortable
    expressing some personal views about the core international music profession &
    actually made clear, “it has been men who engaged me so I’ve faced no female prejudice in that sense throughout my career.” She spoke most admiringly/fondly about the Great Celibidache, with whom she had a very strong musical alliance, describing numerous insights gleaned whilst being one of his if not 1st preferred violin soloist’s over many decades. I spotted a Lord & Taylor shopping bag from the fine American, New York based department store near Ravinia, where Ida Haendel enjoyed shopping & saying so ~ As our conversation/ interview lit up & continued well over the time limit, with this Great Lady Artist insisting I return to my playing career & ‘pleasing your great teachers – goodness, Heifetz & Nathan Milstein’, she became more welcoming by the moment to the point of finding ourselves as 2 women now discussing the possibility of having facelifts at some point! We laughed heartily & spoke of the Sibelius Int’l Violin Competition, which she’d just juried on as a stellar Jury member, recounting their decision to forego awarding the First Prize (I believe in 1990) mentioning many Jury colleagues not feeling any one playing well enough to be awarded the Gold Medal. Ms. Haendel opened up as we chatted & I found her a rarely tender great artist ‘Woman With Violin’ at Sixty Seven, jokingly wondering if she should have a face lift! The Ida Haendel humour was enchanting as was her obvious artistic depth fused w/ a sense of ‘holy’ honour to Music, firstly, sans an obligation & commitment to serve “these great geniuses of music I’m so privileged to play.” As to the photographs being given rapt attention, I’ve an idea the Grand Ida Haendel probably isn’t the least concerned ~ My hunch is that Ms. Haendel is far more involved regarding the whole in making music, & living in the present, having arrived at a place of Peace within herself ~ These Chapter’s in the Great Artist, Ida Haendel’s life ~ embodying the Golden Age of Violin Playing, are more focused on inner riches of Soul and Beauty which are contagious when in her Queenly Presence ~ May she be knighted & I quote, *’by my Queen’ for all to re-realise what it means to be a lifetime Servant of Music! Ida Haendel & Her Majesty, The Queen, Queen Elizabeth II of England & the Briish Commonwealth, have much in common! Let all musicians & the musical public celebrate Ida Haendel at 89 & as her Ninetieth Birthday approaches now in view on the Horizon ~ What a privilege Norman Lebrecht has provided here as my Strad Interview of Ida Haendel was unhappily misplaced at the time. As is said, “God works in mysterious ways …”

    *(Ms. Haendel’s reference above was made when speaking of her first Honour of
    the OBE from Her Grace, Queen Elizabeth II, during our 1991 Summer chat ~ )

    With goodwilled wishes to all here and gratitude you are writing well after such a chilling Terrorist Attack in the Underground District Line only yesterday, the 15th
    of September, 2017, your fabled British stiff upper lip is no illusion, and admired greatly in my country of birth, the U.S. of A. ~

    Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

  • Nick says:

    You remind me of a comment she made during a lovely lunch with her on a tour. Her publisher had suggested she write a second book as a companion to the first “Woman with Violin”. She thought long about it but the publisher simply would not condone the title she wished the volume to have on the cover – “One Night Stands!” A highly appropriate title for an international soloist!

    • Elisabeth Matesky says:

      Not knowing when or where you had a lovely lunch with Ms. Haendel, I wonder
      why you remember the title! As stated above, Ida Haendel had a riotous sense
      of humour! But I haven’t a clue as to every direction it took ~ Very cute, yet with
      ?? Years to go, with all due respect, I prefer to focus on the distinctive musical & personal contributions Ms. Haendel has consistently made to audiences & sick
      other’s in Hospital’s throughout the UK, bringing some joy and moments of true
      Hope to those stricken with cancer ~ She is a remarkably caring ‘human’ human
      being …

      Be very well and Safe ~

      E. Matesky

      • Nick says:

        Where the lunch took place is immaterial but I will tell you it was in April 1983. The reason I recall the title is surely obvious. “One Night Stands” is a perfectly fitting title for a book of reminiscences of a travelling musician of every standing, but it can perhaps more obviously refer to “ladies of the night”. I have wonderfully vivid memories of so many artists not simply in the rehearsal room and concert platform. This is just one.

      • Fina says:

        On a luncheon , I felt sick. So she promised if I felt better she would play Ave Maria for me only , so we went to her home and of course she played more than only Ave Maria. And would put an example : any violinist would play like this “ but me “ I play “ like this” I didn’t want to feel better , so she let me touch her estradivarious

  • Insert Real Name says:

    The photos are certainly interesting, but the digital post-processing applied by the photographer to them is for the birds: over-sharpened, over-saturated, almost a high dynamic range or high micro-contrast effect, so that the slightest texture or wrinkle on Ida Haendel’s skin is vastly exaggerated.

    Anyone who looks at contemporary photography knows this kind of texture-contrast-boosting tactile portrait approach is currently popular and can be really effective when used with extreme care (e.g. Platon’s B/W portrait of Lang Lang ), but here it’s just being applied indiscriminately.

  • Insert Real Name says:

    Ooops, better link to Platon’s Lang Lang portrait:

  • Elisabeth Matesky says:

    @ “Insert Real Name” ~ Your obvious adroit knowledge/expertise re intricacies
    involved in ‘digital post – processing applied by the photographer is for the birds;
    …. ‘ was, indeed, comforting to me, having met/spent some in depth Music chat
    with a glowing Ida Haendel … Thank you for helping me (and all here) to learn
    more about these photographs … My interest was /is the subject of Ida Haendel
    as one of the last Great Violinists from the Golden Age of Violin Playing which is
    highlighted by my violin mentor’s, Jascha Heifetz & Nathan Milstein, both fellow class-mate’s of revered Auer assistant – violin guru, London’s Sascha Lasserson, with whom I also had the great privilege to study – being sent by JH, w/A+ marks & later, by Lasserson to Milstein, in like fashion, gifting one w/traditions of all 3 ~

    The focus of many writing in seemed more visual than musical which altho’ not intended, seems to bypass the Greatest Violinist Stature of Ida Haendel, at 89 …
    Once again, Thank You for clarifying & enlightening us about exaggerated photo images …

    (A word: Could we avoid photo-speak of pianists in this Tribute to Ida Haendel?) I, for one, feel she warrants Center Stage now & in Greatest Violinist’s History ~

    Sending best wishes with gratitude from America …

    Elisabeth Matesky

  • Jack says:

    Mr. Lebrecht,

    What a powerful and important series – a striking portrayal of a beautiful, strong woman, who had a rare and exquisite musical gift.

    Too often the greats are frozen in time. Life, however, continues beyond the final curtain call. Indeed, all talent and ability fades, but Ms. Haendel is still astir with poise and panache, still surprising us in her older years, still beautifully engrossing. And I’m filled with delight.

    I met Ms. Haendel just once, after watching her play so beautifully in London, and she was elegant and charming. Thank you to Mr de Boer for honouring Ms. Haendel with such intimacy and tenderness. It seems to me that music must be the secret to a long and fulfilling life.

    Jack Raudino

  • Maaike says:

    I just love these photos. You can see two people who know each other well and feel comfortable enough to capture these personal moments. I also see a beautiful 89 year old woman! Big thanks to the photographer for giving a glimpse into her life!