"Teach us, sprite or bird, What sweet thoughts are thine; I have never heard Praise of love or wine That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine" (P.B. Shelley - To a Skylark)


Jacqueline du Pré

Jacqueline du Pré is arguably the greatest talent to ever play the cello. She combined mind, heart, body and soul to produce the most expressive tones ever to emanate from the instrument. Shy and at the same time bold, she was not only expressive, but played with precision, fullness and purity of tone.

Talent, Ability & Heart

She was born in Oxford on January 26, 1945 into a middle-class family in which music was important: her mother was a fine pianist and a gifted teacher. The French-sounding name came from her father's Channel Island ancestry. Just before her fifth birthday, when she was already showing musical promise, she heard the sound of a cello on the radio and the course of her life was set. (Tully Porter: Liner notes to Don Quixote / Lalo Cello Concerto)
 

A Tradition of Artistic Excellence

At ten years old Jacqueline du Pré studied under William Pleeth. She then studied with Casals, Tortelier and Rostropovich. In 1965 she recorded the Elgar Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra, a recording which established her stardom. Her unselfishness made her a brilliant chamber music player, collaborating with many of today's greatest names in music. Her friendship with Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zuckerman, led to the famous film by Christopher Nupen of their Schubert "Trout" Quintet.


In 1967 she married pianist Daniel Barenboim. TIME magazine wrote, "Thus began one of the most remarkable relationships, personal as well as professional, that music has known since the days of Clara and Robert Schumann." Their marriage led to some fruitful collaboration, evidenced in many recordings with Barenboim as pianist or conductor.

She could not pinpoint the time when she started losing feeling in her fingers, and her arms, as she said, felt like lead. By the fall of 1973 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She continued to teach on occasion, but the deterioration of her health gained momentum and finally, on October 19, 1987, she died at the age of forty-two.

A Legacy of Recordings

Jacqueline du Pré left us a wonderful legacy of recordings, although certainly not nearly enough for any of us, her admirers. Too often the same recording seems to be recompiled into new collections (ie., there are at least 4 cd /sets which have the Dvorak and Elgar concertos), which only points out our yearning for more. Who wouldn't like to hear her play the Brahms Double Concerto, the Beethoven Triple, or the Tchaikowsky Rococo Variations? The list can go on and on, but I am grateful for what we do have. Perhaps someday other vaulted tapes will be transferred to CD, other films to DVD, to reveal a little more of this genius that was Jacqueline du Pré.

 

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This tribute and all related pages are conceived and designed by Miguel Muelle purely as a labor of love, meant solely for the pleasure of all those who are interested in Jacqueline Du Pré. All photographs are credited where possible, and all recordings and corresponding photographs used are assumed to be copyright and property of EMI Records, Ltd., unless otherwise acknowledged.