Born in 1928 to a Polish Jewish family in Chełm, her talents were evident when she picked up her sister’s violin at the age of three. Major competition wins paved the way for success. Performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, she won the Warsaw Conservatory's Gold Medal and the first Huberman Prize in 1933. At the age of seven she competed against towering virtuosos – the likes of Oistrakh and Neveu – to become a laureate of the first Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in 1935.
These accolades enabled her to study with the esteemed pedagogues Carl Flesch in London and George Enescu in Paris. During World War II she played in factories and for British and American troops. In 1937 her London debut under the baton of Sir Henry Wood brought her worldwide critical acclaim, and began a lifelong association with the Proms, where she has appeared 68 times.
Haendel has made annual tours of Europe, and also appeared regularly in South America and Asia. Living in Montreal from 1952 to 1989, her collaborations with Canadian orchestras made her a key celebrity of Canadian musical life. Performing with the London Philharmonic in 1973, she was the first Western soloist invited to China following the Cultural Revolution. Although she worked particularly with Sergiu Celibidache, she was also associated with Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Eugene Goossens, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Charles Munch, Otto Klemperer, Sir Georg Solti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Bernard Haitink, Rafael Kubelík and Simon Rattle, with whom she recorded the Elgar and Sibelius violin concertos, available on Testament SBT 1444.
In 1993, she made her concert début with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In 2006 she performed for Pope Benedict XVI at the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later engagements include a tribute concert at London's National Gallery in honour of Dame Myra Hess's War Memorial Concerts, an appearance at the Sagra Musicale Malatestiana Festival in 2010, and a performance of Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in Miami with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Her major label recordings have earned critical praise, particularly her performance of the Sibelius Concerto which elicited a fan letter from its composer: "I congratulate you on the great success, but most of all I congratulate myself, that my concerto has found an interpreter of your rare standard". The Sibelius Society awarded her the Sibelius Medal in 1982.
Ida Haendel has said that she has always had a passion for German music. Her recording career began on 10 September 1940 for Decca, initially of short solo pieces and chamber works. In April 1945, she recorded both the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn concertos followed in 1947 by the Dvořák concerto. Her recording career spans nearly 70 years for major labels including EMI and Harmonia Mundi. In 1948-49 she recorded Beethoven's Violin Concerto, with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. Other acclaimed recordings are her renditions of the Brahms Violin Concerto (including one with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sergiu Celibidache...Celibidache's last studio recording)...and Tchaikovsky's with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted Basil Cameron.
She is equally passionate about the music of the 20th century, including Béla Bartók, Benjamin Britten and William Walton. Among her premiere performances have been Luigi Dallapiccola's Tartiniana Seconda, and Allan Pettersson's Violin Concerto No. 2, which was dedicated to her. Paying special tribute to her teacher George Enescu, her Decca recording of his Violin Sonata with Vladimir Ashkenazy in 2000 earned her a Diapason d'Or.
In August 2012 she was Honorary Artist at the Cambridge International String Festival. She is a regular adjudicator for violin competitions, including the Sibelius, the Carl Flesch, the Benjamin Britten, and the International Violin Competition. She has returned to her native Poland to judge the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznań on a number of occasions, and was Honorary Chairwoman in 2011.
Ida Haendel published her autobiography, Woman With Violin, in 1970:
Her life has been the subject of several television documentaries, including Ida Haendel: A Voyage of Music (1988), I Am The Violin (2004), and Ida Haendel: This Is My Heritage (2011). In June 2009, she appeared on a Channel 4 television programme, The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies, in which she advised then-16-year-old British composer Alex Prior on which children to choose to play his composition.
- The Strad magazine dated March 1937 gives her birth date as 15 January 1923; her precise age is in doubt
- It has been reported that, in consultation with her father, the English impresario Harold Holt adjusted her birth year from 1928 to 1923 to make it appear she was five years older than she really was. This was done in order to circumvent Covent Garden's rule prohibiting anyone aged under 14 appearing on stage. The incorrect birth year of 1923 has since appeared in many reference works.
- Petrášková, Eva (2003). Ravel: Tzigane, Lalo: Symphonie espagnole, Hartmann: Concerto funébre (CD). Ivan Vomáčka (trans.), Karel Ančerl, Czech Philharmonic. Prague: Supraphon. p. 12. SU 3677-2011. 
- Prizewinners of International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competitions, wieniawski.com; accessed 23 August 2015.
- "Performances of Ida Haendel at BBC Proms". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- Siskind, Jacob (14 April 1973). "Ida Haendel – Reflections on music in the land of Mao". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- "Biography: Ida Haendel" Archived 26 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Miami International Piano Festival
- "Der Geigerin Ida Haendel zum 80", welt.de, 15 December 2008; accessed 23 August 2015.
- "Ida Haendel Homage Page". jose-sanchez-penzo.net. 2001. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- Inman, David.Audio and the Record Collector: Testament sessions at Abbey Road. International Classical Record Collector, November 1995, p91-92.
- Lebrecht, Norman, "Ida Haendel - The one they don't want you to hear", scena.org, 22 June 2000.
- "Ida Haendel". Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society of Poznan. 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- "14th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition". Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society of Poznan. October 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
- Rosenfelder, Ruth (1 March 2009). "Ida Haendel – Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- "FACT SHEET: TITLE: THE WORLD'S GREATEST MUSICAL PRODIGIES", aptonline.org (2009); Archive; accessed 23 August 2015.
- "The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies", Channel4.com, 30 March 2009. Archived 1 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine