Jacqueline du Pré: Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor

>> Thursday, November 18, 2010

I had heard the name, Jacqueline du Pré, when I was a child but it didn't really mean anything to me. Later on I learned that she was a famous English cellist who died fairly young of MS. It wasn't until I saw the film Hilary & Jackie (which was du Pré's story told from the perspective of her older sister, Jackie, who was a very talented but unsung flutist, and who failed to achieve any real recognition because of her sister's immense and shining talent), that my interest in her life and work was piqued.

Du Pré was particularly famous for her interpretation of the Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor; her interpretation of that work has been described as "definitive" and "legendary". Born on January 26, 1945, she made her formal debut in London's Wigmore Hall in 1961 at the age of 16.

Jacqueline du Pré met pianist Daniel Barenboim on New Year's Eve 1966. Shortly after the Six-Day War ended, she cancelled all her existing engagements (to the enormous annoyance of promoters), and they flew to Jerusalem. She converted to Judaism overnight, and they were married on 15 June 1967 at the Western Wall.

Du Pré’s sister Hilary married conductor Christopher "Kiffer" Finzi, and they had four children. Jacqueline had an affair with Finzi from 1971 to 1972. According to Hilary and her brother Piers in their book A Genius in the Family, which was made into the film Hilary and Jackie, the affair was conducted with Hilary's consent as a way of helping Jacqueline through a nervous breakdown. In 1999, Clare Finzi, the daughter of Kiffer and Hilary, publicly criticized her mother's account and laid out a different version of events. She said her father was a serial adulterer who had seduced her emotionally vulnerable aunt in a time of great need in order to gratify his own ego.

In 1971 du Pré’s playing began an irreversible decline as she started to lose sensitivity in her fingers and other parts of her body. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in October 1973.

She recorded her last studio album of sonatas by Chopin and Franck in December 1971. She went on sabbatical from 1971 to 1972, during which time she performed rarely. In 1973 du Pré resumed her concerts, but by then her symptoms had become severe. In January she toured North America. Some of the less-than-complimentary reviews were an indication that her condition had worsened, although there were brief moments when she played without noticeable problems. Her last London concerts were in February 1973, performing the Elgar Concerto with Zubin Mehta and the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

Her last public concerts were in New York in February 1973: four performances of the Brahms Double Concerto with Pinchas Zukerman, and Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic were scheduled. Du Pré recalled that she had problems judging the weight of the bow, and just opening the cello case had become difficult. As she had lost sensation in her fingers, she had to coordinate her fingering visually. She performed three of the concerts and cancelled the last. Isaac Stern stepped in for her, performing Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

Information: Wikipedia

Du Pré died in London on 19 October 1987, aged 42. She is buried in Golders Green Jewish Cemetery.

The following is a performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto with her husband Daniel Barenboim, conducting.


Jasper November 21, 2010 at 6:33 PM  

Now if this performance could just lose that turgid philistine Barenboim, it would be just perfect!

Lynette November 22, 2010 at 8:07 PM  

Perhaps that's the reason she had the affair with Finzi.

manic January 25, 2011 at 9:27 PM  

Lovely post, however I'm a wee confused. Did you take your information from Wikipedia or did you contribute to Wiki? Because portions of your blog, minus your personal introduction of course, is verbatim to the Wiki post.

Lynette January 25, 2011 at 10:51 PM  

I took the information from Wikipedia--thus the citation at the end of the post. I don't ever take information or quote verbatim without citation, however, unlike a formal paper or thesis, I don't directly link quotes or citations. In the blog format, it gets to be a bit ponderous for the writer and the reader.



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