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Jacqueline Mary du Pré, OBE (26 January 1945 – 19 October 1987) was an English cellist. At a young age, she achieved enduring mainstream popularity unusual for a classical performer. Despite her short career, she is regarded as one of the most distinctive cellists of the second half of the twentieth century.
Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to stop performing at the age of 27. She battled the illness for many years before her death. Posthumously, she was the subject of a film titled Hilary and Jackie (based on her siblings' memoir, A Genius in the Family) that was factually controversial and criticized for sensationalising her private life.
Du Pré was born in Oxford, England, the second child of Iris Greep and Derek du Pré. Derek was born in Jersey, where his family had lived for generations. After working as an accountant at Lloyds Bank in St Helier and London, he became assistant editor and later editor of The Accountant. Iris was a talented concert pianist who taught at the Royal Academy of Music.
At the age of four du Pré is said to have heard the sound of the cello on the radio and asked her mother for "one of those". She began with lessons from her mother, who composed little pieces accompanied by illustrations, before enrolling at the London Violoncello School at age five, studying with Alison Dalrymple. For her general education, du Pré was enrolled first at Commonweal Lodge a former independent school for girls in Purley, and then at the age of eight, transferred to Croydon High School, an independent day school for girls in South Croydon.:p. 31 In 1956, at the age of 11, she won the Guilhermina Suggia Award, and was granted renewal of the award each year through 1961.:p. 50 The Suggia award paid for du Pré's tuition at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and for private lessons with the celebrated cellist William Pleeth.
In late 1958, the family moved to London, where Derek du Pré took the job of Secretary of the Institute of Cost and Works Accounting. In January, 1959, du Pré was enrolled in Queen’s College, where she fell behind in her schoolwork, and in December du Pré’s parents withdrew her from the school. This ended du Pré’s general education; she never took the GCE.:pp. 44–46
From an early age, du Pré was entering and winning local music competitions alongside her sister, flautist Hilary du Pré. In 1959 she began appearing at children's and young musicians' concerts, including with fellow students at the Guildhall end-of-term concert in March, followed by an appearance on BBC Television, playing the Lalo Cello Concerto. In May she repeated the Lalo concerto with the BBC Welsh Orchestra in Cardiff, with an additional recording of the Haydn Cello Concerto at the BBC Lime Grove Studios with the Royal Philharmonic. In 1960 du Pré won the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the same year participated in a Pablo Casals masterclass in Zermatt, Switzerland. Pleeth entered her in the Queen’s Prize competition for outstanding musicians under 30. The panel, chaired by Yehudi Menuhin, unanimously awarded du Pré the prize, and Menuhin subsequently invited her to play trios with him and his sister.:pp. 52-53
In March 1961, at the age of 16, du Pré made her formal début, at Wigmore Hall, London. She was accompanied by Ernest Lush, and played sonatas by Handel, Brahms, Debussy and de Falla, and a solo cello suite by Bach. She made her concerto début on 21 March 1962 at the Royal Festival Hall playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Rudolf Schwarz; repeating the Elgar at The Proms with the same orchestra on August 14 of the same year, under Sir Malcolm Sargent. In September, 1962, du Pré débuted at the Edinburgh Festival with Brahms' Second Cello Sonata, followed by débuts in Berlin in September and Paris in October with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing the Schumann Cello Concerto. After the Paris début, du Pré enrolled at the Conservatoire de Paris to study for six months with Paul Tortelier, the tuition paid by her final Suggia Award stipend, although she continued to refer to Pleeth as her primary teacher.:pp. 68–69
In 1963, du Pré performed at The Proms, playing the Elgar Concerto with Sir Malcolm Sargent. Her performance of the concerto proved so popular that she returned three years in succession to perform the work. At her 3 September 1964 Prom Concert, she performed the Elgar concerto as well as the world premiere of Priaulx Rainier's Cello Concerto. Du Pré became a favourite at the Proms, returning every year until 1969.
In 1965, at age 20, du Pré recorded the Elgar Concerto for EMI with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir John Barbirolli, which brought her international recognition. This recording has become a benchmark for the work, and one which has never been out of the catalog since its release. Du Pré also performed the Elgar with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Antal Doráti for her United States début, at Carnegie Hall on 14 May 1965. In 1966 du Pré studied in Russia with Mstislav Rostropovich, who was so impressed with his pupil that at the end of his tutorship he declared her "the only cellist of the younger generation that could equal and overtake own achievement."
In 1968, at the suggestion of Ian Hunter, a composition was created by Alexander Goehr specifically for du Pré, Romanza for cello and orchestra, op.24, which she premiered at the Brighton Music Festival, with Barenboim conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra.:pp. 281–282
In addition to those already mentioned, Du Pré performed with numerous orchestras throughout the world, including the London Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She regularly performed with such conductors as Barbirolli, Sargent, Sir Adrian Boult, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.
Du Pré primarily played on two Stradivarius cellos, one from 1673 and the so-called Davidov Stradivarius of 1712. Both instruments were gifts from her godmother, Ismena Holland. She performed with the 1673 Stradivarius from 1961 until 1964, when she acquired the Davidov. Many of her most famous recordings were made on this instrument, including the Elgar Concerto with Barbirolli, the Robert Schumann Cello Concerto with Barenboim and the two Brahms cello sonatas. From 1969 to 1970 she (like Casals before her) played on a Francesco Goffriller cello, and in 1970 acquired a modern instrument from the Philadelphia violin maker Sergio Peresson. It was the Peresson cello that du Pré played for the remainder of her career until 1973, using it for a second, live, recording of the Elgar Concerto, and her last studio recording, of Frédéric Chopin's Cello Sonata in G minor and César Franck's Violin Sonata in A arranged for cello, in December 1971.
Her friendship with musicians Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, and marriage to Daniel Barenboim led to many memorable chamber-music performances. In a book review for two biographies about the cellist, the former wife of Zukerman judged du Pré "one of the most stunningly gifted musicians of our time". The 1969 performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London of the Schubert Piano Quintet in A major, "The Trout", was the basis of a film, The Trout, by Christopher Nupen. Nupen made other films featuring du Pré, including Jacqueline du Pré and the Elgar Cello Concerto, a documentary featuring a live performance of the Elgar; and The Ghost, with Barenboim and Zukerman in a performance of the "Ghost" Piano Trio in D major, by Beethoven.
In 1971, du Pré’s playing declined as she began to lose sensitivity in her fingers and other parts of her body. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 1973. Her last recording, of sonatas by Chopin and Franck (the latter originally for violin), was made in December 1971. She went on sabbatical from 1971 to 1972, and performed only rarely. She started performing again in 1973, but by then her condition had become severe. For her January tour of North America, some of the less-than-complimentary reviews were an indication that her condition had worsened except for brief moments when her playing was without noticeable problems. Her last London concerts were in February 1973, including the Elgar Concerto with Zubin Mehta and the New Philharmonia Orchestra.
Her last public concerts took place 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 played only three of the four concerts, cancelling the last, in which Isaac Stern took her place on the programme with Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
Du Pré died in London on 19 October 1987 at age 42, and is buried in Golders Green Jewish Cemetery.
The Vuitton Foundation purchased her Davidov Stradivarius for just over £1 million, and made it available on loan to Yo-Yo Ma. The Norwegian cellist Øyvind Gimse now owns the 1673 Stradivarius, named by Lynn Harrell the Du Pré Stradivarius in tribute. Her 1970 Peresson cello is currently on loan to cellist Kyril Zlotnikov of the Jerusalem Quartet. Fanart Banner