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"
Shelley - To a Skylark)
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.
Ability & Heart
She was born in Oxford
on January 26, 1945 into a middle-class family in which music was
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
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)
Tradition of Artistic Excellence
years old Jacqueline du Pré studied under William Pleeth. She then
studied with Casals, Tortelier and Rostropovich. In 1965 she recorded
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
but the deterioration of her health gained momentum and finally, on October
19, 1987, she died at the age of forty-two.
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.