The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (200): Fire and ice

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (200): Fire and ice


norman lebrecht

October 06, 2020

Ida with Ancerl, fire and ice. Nothing comes close.



  • E says:

    Thank you. This was astounding. They both were, together.
    They communicate ecstasy and heartbreak, too.

  • Geoff says:

    Ginette Neveu 1st Prize, Oistrahk 2nd Prize, Ida Haendel 3rd Prize. Some competition!

  • Apparently you’ve never heard the American violinist Camilla Wicks (of Norwegian ancestry) play the piece with Sixten Ehrling and Stockholm Radio Orchestra. All praise to Ida and Karel, but they didn’t have the full genetic claim to Nordic authority and ice-bitten brilliance.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Wicks was indeed wonderful, and Ehrling was one of the greatest Sibelius conductors ever, and their performance together is superb.
      But so is that of Haendel and Ancerl.
      I would have a very difficult time choosing between the two. I think I’ll just enjoy them both!
      BTW, if you are a real Sibelius fan, make the effort to hear Ehrling’s definitive 1952-53 set of the seven symphonies. It will put performances by other conductors – even Sibelians such as Ormandy, Barbirolli, Vanska, Beecham, and HvK – into perspective. The set was reissued about 20 years ago on Finlandia CDs, in excellent sound.
      And here’s another candidate for your listening pleasure, rather a dark horse recommendation: Abravanel’s 1977 Utah Symphony set on Vanguard. The performances are beautiful, unforced, and cogent, and the recorded sound is stunningly lifelike and natural late analog, engineered by Marc Aubert and Joanna Nickrenz. It is a feast for the ears.

    • Tamini says:

      „full genetic claim to Nordic authority“
      Did you really say that? What total nonsense.
      The kind of „thinking“ where people end up mutdering other people, because they think tgey are different.
      For the facts: there is zero evidence, that genetic makeup influences musical understanding.
      Heck, there is not even a homogenous genetic makeup among certain people who identify as a certain subgroup of humainty.
      Will we ever get rid of this most toxic tribal thinking?

    • mikhado says:

      Apparently there are violinist fans who like the Callas/Flagstad obsessives take every opportunity to condescendingly insert their goddess into the conversation.

      As a cellist born in Sweden to Swedish parents who emigrated to America when I was a child unlike Ms WIcks who was born in America and only had one Nordic parent, do I have more of the “full genetic claim to Nordic authority and ice-bitten brilliance” than she?

    • Alexander T says:

      “Genetic claim to Nordic authority”?????
      What claptrap!

  • engineers_unite says:

    “nothing comes close”?
    Norman as usual is full of this kind of fashionable tosh, sheer nonsense stuff, distortions, forgetting some of the other Flesch squad, one of which is still with us…

    Why are you doing it?

    Sibelius:- IVRY GITLIS.
    Instantly recognisable, more passion, warmth and virtuoso drive at an incredible tempo.
    Truly wonderful.
    “Rubato is the art of playing in time”.
    Ginette Neveu a little less fast, absolutely unforgettable, and with a passion to make you cry.

    And so many others?
    Szeryng, Temianka, Goldberg, Brainin, and many others who have all enriched us so much over decades..

    • violin accordion says:

      But did any of these have the intensity, psyche, warmth, constant integrity and humanity of Haëndel ?

  • Akutagawa says:

    De gustibus non est disputandum, of course, but personally I much prefer Ferras, especially in the slow movement.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Very nice. and other worthy names mentioned, especially on the distaff echelon. Absent names expected here: Heifetz, Beecham, Kabakos”s both final and original versiosns with an extra cadenza in the primo and many changes except to the second movement.

    I was surprised to learn that Kreisler had played it. David Nelson? To me, Sibelius without Heifetz is to have Hamlet without the prince. He and Beecham made a classic verion together, then each did it again with others … Stern and Walter hendl I believe. I saw Heifetz play it, and no doubt warped my judgment.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Although I never pass a chance to hear Ida Haendel play anything, but particularly this concerto, I’m also a Heifetz fan also for the Sibelius concerto, including his inspired little alterations to the solo part which at least a few others have picked up. The Ginette Neveu recording, referred to above, is also important and very much worth hearing, and the Camilla Wicks is too.

      Edgar, Fritz Kreisler DID play the Sibelius, under unusual circumstances. According to violin maker, restorer and dealer Rembert Wurlitzer around 1937 he found that Fritz Kreisler and he were on the same train. Kreisler was immersed in studying the Sibelius Concerto and said it was his first real chance to study it closely. Kreisler told Wurlitzer that he was confident that by the time he arrived at his destination he would be able to play it from memory – but he wasn’t studying it with violin in hand, he was strictly reading it. Whether Kreisler’s engagement was to play the Sibelius with orchestra or with piano in recital I do not know, but in 1945 in one of his last Carnegie Hall recitals he played the concerto to honor Sibelius’s birthday. That performance was with piano which would seem a rather hobbled way to hear the piece.

      A potentially great performance that of course we cannot ever hear would be that of Maud Powell who gave the US premiere in 1906. Her writings on the concerto are very perceptive; she did record a few short pieces by Sibelius on acoustic 78s but of course never the concerto or any part of it.

      Kreisler also had some perceptive things to say about Sibelius’s music in general, told to and quoted by his colleague Albert Spalding. “One of the most significant and original qualities of Sibelius’ music is its rather irregular use of rhythmical patterns, like different planes of perspective slightly out of focus. They make their entrances and exists at totally unexpected moments. The harmonic structure is simple, sometimes even conventional, but these architectural innovations produce an altogether new picture.”

      Exactly – to me, sometimes Sibelius’ music sounds like conventional music but some impish rascal has altered the orchestra parts to add a rest or two here, take a rest or an entire measure away there, just to see what happens with the phrases and harmonies.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      Yes, Heifetz is probably the GOAT in this concerto. Both of his recordings are nonpareil.
      Stern’s mono recording with Beecham is also excellent. Neveu (cond. Susskind), Kavakos (cond. Vanska), Ferras (cond. HvK), Oistrakh (cond. Ormandy and Ehrling) and Tossy Spivakosky (cond. Tauno Hannikainen) are also among my favorites.
      Spivakovsky, BTW, is also known by Bartok fans as having played the US premiere of that composer’s second violin concerto, with Rodzinski in Cleveland in 1943. Bartok approved of a later performance he heard Spivakovsky give.

  • Allan Leicht says:


  • Tamino says:

    I don‘t like that kind of permanent unmodulated (uncontrolled?) vibrato. Turns me off.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Then, Tamino, you might find the Joseph Swenson recording for RCA Victor Red Seal interesting, as he plays the opening almost sans vibrato and uses a restrained or absent vibrato elsewhere as an expressive device. At one time I would have predicted great things for Swenson as a violinist but he caught the “conducting” bug it would seem.

      I meant to mention earlier, but forgot, that another very worthy recording of the Sibelius Concerto is that of Miriam Fried with the Helsinki Philharmonic. It may well be regarded as her signature piece, and my own teacher said that at Indiana University in the later 1960s if you needed to find fellow student Miriam Fried, you’d just wander the halls with the practice rooms and listen for someone playing the Sibelius Concerto.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Tamino, good observation. For unvaried, unremitting, intrusive vibrato the famousRusian cellist Daniil Shafran has few equals. Even a cellist I know can’t bear to hear him. I’ve heard he was insecure, intimidated, and fearful for his status and reputation,– as well he might be in the land of Piatigorsky, Knushevitzky, Feigen, Rostropovich, and Valentin Berlinsky.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Hola, Greg, Bottini, shake!.

    Thanks to E. Rand and David Nelson for their comments on Kreisler’s playing the Sibelius concerto with piano, which I never dreamt of, assuming he played it with an orchestra. And also for David’s remarks on Heifetz. I seem to recall another Heifetz recording live with Stokowski, but that may be a phantom.

    What does “boxings”mean, please, in the sense E. Rand uses it, an unfamiliar violin term of the teacher’s memory of Kreisler’s Sibelius? If Kreisler learned it on a train, he rivals Gieseking’s learning and memorizing Pfitzner’s piano concerto en route to play the premiere.

    I need to hear Ehling’s Sibelius. Anthony Collins was another exceptional conductor of Sibelius, especially first symphony, etc. I heard Fabien Sevitzky conduct the second symphony, and know his famous uncle’s record with the Boston Symphony.

    Oddly, as Sibelius himself earned money playing violin in Berlin cafes, I know only the six Humoresques vor violin and orchestra, apart from his concerto, which he had a lot of trouble finishing dedicating, and getting premiered, ,as its two versions suggest.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hola, Edgar!
      Anthony Collins was another of those conductors who, unfortunately, are underrated and/or forgotten today because they did not record in stereo. His Sibelius records are excellent, if a bit too fast for my taste. Ehrling, to my ears, gets all the tempi just right.
      Collins, BTW, made some absolutely brilliant Delius records, also for Decca, matched perhaps only by Beecham, Barbirolli, and Handley. If you can find them, check ’em out. (Funny that Delius’ gorgeous music doesn’t seem to travel well; it is done best by British conductors, with one exception: Ormandy. HIS Delius recordings are worth searching out, too.)

    • Kyle says:

      I think “boxing’s” was a typo of bowings.

  • Edgar Self says:

    How good to see Albert Spalding’s name, David, and read his recollection of Kreisler’s remakrs on Sibelius’s rhythms and harmony. Spalding was the genial American violinist and scion of the sporting goods family. He and ace violist William Primrose recorded Mozart’s duo sinfonia concertante shortly before WWII with Fritz Stiedry and the New Friends (and Enemies) of Music for RCA. There was a later Beethoven concerto by Spalding, an sonatasonr Remington LPs.

    Maud Pwell is another heirloom: My mother heard her play and revered her name.

    As a boy I used to hear Kreisler and, sometimes, Josef Hofmann play on such AM radio programs as the Bell Telephone Hour with conductor Donald Voorhee; Columbia Symphony hour and Howard Barlow, and perhaps others. Kreisler recorded da faux-baroque concerto of his own concoction and a rather nice quartet with Shumsky and Gingold, but who was the cellist” Not his brother, Hugo Kreisler, whom Fritz, a good pianist, accompanied on a few records, but someone else. Shapiro?

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Kreisler recorded his string quartet in London (1935) with William Primrose on viola. Second violin is Thomas Petrie and the cellist, Laurie Kennedy. While the piece was being recorded the producer, Fred Gaisberg, began to realize that it was going to fill just 7 sides, leaving one side blank. During breaks in the session Kreisler quickly created a version of his Scherzo “in the style of Dittersdorf” (so one of the famous Kreisler “fakes” because he originally claimed it really was written by Dittersdorf) for string quartet. Curious but it sounds much more like a heavily arranged but genuine classical piece when heard with string quartet! Kreisler gave the MS to Gaisberg and to my knowledge it is unpublished.

  • Edgar Self says:

    thanks for sorting out personnel of Kreisler’s quartet, David, which I clearly confused. A note in a Kreisler biography asked anyone with a opy of the recording to contact him as he had lost his.