“I’ve been blessed with a god-given talent and it’s my privilege to share it with my friends.”
In the course of a dazzling career, cruelly curtailed by illness, Oxford-born cellist Jacqueline du Pré shared her transcendent and seemingly instinctive musicianship with the world. Her epoch-making interpretation of the Elgar Cello Concerto – conducted by Sir John Barbirolli, a former cellist who performed under Elgar’s baton – was recorded 57 years ago, when du Pré was just 20. It remains a reference for today’s cellists and audiences. As Gramophone wrote when the LP was first released: “Not only is every phrase eloquent, so is every single note … I need say no more than that this is on no account to be missed.”
The Elgar Concerto is just one of the many highlights of Jacqueline du Pré: The Complete Warner Recordings, a new 23CD box set from Warner Classics released on 3 June 2022. The boxset contains the full eleven years of du Pré’s renowned recording history with EMI Classics, Warner Classics’ predecessor.
Embracing works for cello with orchestra, with piano and harpsichord, and the chamber repertoire, the set bears witness to du Pré’s collaborations with such musicians as her husband Daniel Barenboim (as both pianist and conductor), conductors Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Malcolm Sargent, pianists Stephen Kovacevich and Gerald Moore, and instrumentalists Pinchas Zukerman, John Williams, William Pleeth (her cello teacher), Gervase de Peyer and Osian Ellis.
All the recordings have been newly remastered in 192Hz/24 bit from the original EMI tapes, and by mid-June 2022 du Pré’s entire Warner catalogue will also be available in high-definition digital format, with five albums presented in Dolby Atmos immersive sound.
The earliest recording dates from 1961, when the sixteen-year-old du Pré played a breakthrough recital at Wigmore Hall; the latest was made in 1972, shortly before her performing career came to its tragically premature end. The repertoire ranges from the Baroque – Bach, Handel, and Couperin – to Britten by way of, among others, Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Bruch, Strauss, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Delius, and Falla.
Previously unreleased is a recording of Brahms’ Clarinet Trio in A minor op 114, in which du Pré is joined by Gervase de Peyer and Daniel Barenboim. It was originally the audio track of a film made at Abbey Road Studios in 1968 by Christopher Nupen, who directed both Remembering Jacqueline du Pré (1994) and the famous 1969 film The Trout, centred on Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet and memorably aligning du Pré with Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Zubin Mehta.
The set also brings a new edit of a major recording first released in 1995, eight years after du Pré’s death at the age of just 42. It further enhances a pioneering reconstruction of her interpretation of Strauss’ Don Quixote. In 1968, sessions were scheduled at Abbey Road Studios with veteran conductor Otto Klemperer, but he withdrew from the project soon after work on the recording had started. Another distinguished conductor, Sir Adrian Boult, was engaged to replace him for an imminent concert performance of Don Quixote at London’s Royal Festival Hall. When du Pré, Boult, and the New Philharmonia Orchestra played a complete run-through of the work at Abbey Road, someone had the bright idea of switching on the microphones and tape recorder shortly after the music started. In the 1990s the British producer Andrew Keener skillfully patched in several short excerpts from takes recorded with Klemperer to produce a complete performance of Don Quixote, a work which lasts some 40 minutes. Now, thanks to the complementary expertise of the French company Art & Son Studio, it can be enjoyed with even greater immediacy.
Three years after that Don Quixote, du Pré began to show symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the degenerative disease that forced her into retirement. Even when she was no longer able to play, she retained her innate optimism and generosity of spirit and transmitted her passion for music through teaching. Paying tribute to du Pré, the great violinist Itzhak Perlman, her colleague, and friend, has said: “I always imagine a shooting star shining brightly in the night for an instant and then disappearing … Her ability to communicate her art to her audience was uncanny. Personally, I was affected by the sheer freedom and abandon that her playing possessed …. Her star will always shine”.
The 23-CD boxset will be released 3rd June 2022. The entire set will also be available digitally by 17 June 2022, with five albums available in Dolby Atmos.
This is truly excellent news! Deepest gratitude to Warners.
It’s very disappointing that it’s so steeply priced. Nearly £70 for 23 discs is outrageous, frankly.