My informant writes: “I know 76 isn’t a ‘milestone’ birthday, but it’s what Jacqueline du Pre [1945-87] would have been today. Gosh. How would she be playing now had not ill-health and death supervened? Would the ‘paring away’ of youthful ardour have happened? Such would have disappointed Sir John Barbirolli, who defended her against those who accused her of exaggeration.”
As tipped off: Jacqueline du Pré would have been 76 today.
Jan 26, 2021 | Ramblings | 3 comments
Submit a Comment Cancel reply
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Very fond memories of her breakthrough season and recording with Barbirolli. She’s became a bit of a problem woman, almost child , married Barenboim and made some good recordings. But it is Earle period I will always cherish. Despite her rather soft centred Elgar as I hear it today. My favourite has always been Andre Navarra also with Barbirolli on Pye stereo. Entirely natural.
My sympathies and thoughts go to Du Pre’s end which must have been awful particularly being long deserted by her unfaithful husband.
The Barbirolli Society will be issuing soon a previously unreleased performance of the Elgar Concerto by Jacqueline with Barbirolli conducting the BBC Symphony in Moscow. January 1967. Also, don’t miss their recent issue of Bruch’s Kol Nidrei by her with Barbirolli and the Halle from September 1965 – both are wonderful performances, as you might expect.
Ah, Edward, but there are at least eight extant Jacqueline du Pre recordings of the Elgar! I wrote about them in a 2007 symposium published to mark the 150th anniversary of Elgar’s birth. All are completely recognisable as du Pre, but all very different. The one which really enthrals me (and every friend, young and older to whom I’ve played it) is the 1967 Nupen film with Barenboim conducting the New Philharmonia. Totally engaging in every bar, musically, technically and visually. She is clearly in love with the work and with her husband. The 1965 EMI taping with Barbirolli and the LSO is of course special, a threshold crossed. But I prefer by a small margin the one issued by Testament of du Pre and Barbirolli/BBC SO at a Prague concert. JB is more vital, caught up in the whole thing, and du Pre is clearly having a whale of a time. As a schoolboy, there was no greater influence on me than this remarkable cellist, whom I heard ‘live’ only once, as a Sixth Former, when she and Barenboim played in Cardiff. As you say, Edward, one can only imagine how her last years felt to her. But even now, I venture that it’s too early to draw conclusions, to pass judgement. On the one hand we have the book written by the family (understandably partisan towards Jacqueline and not exactly admiring of her husband…and there’s that dreadful film), while on the other there is Elizabeth Wilson’s scholarly and readable biography, written with Barenboim’s help and approval. I hope that one day a more balanced picture might emerge of the respective difficulties experienced by both wife and husband – although even as I write that, I reflect that it’s really none of our business!