Jacqueline Mary du PréOBE (26 January 1945 – 19 October 1987) was a British cellist. She is particularly associated with Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, her interpretation of which has been described as "definitive" and "legendary."[1] Her career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, which forced her to stop performing at the age of 28, and led to her premature death. Posthumously, she was the subject of a film entitled Hilary and Jackie (based on her siblings' memoir, A Genius in the Family) that was factually controversial and criticized for sensationalising her private life.


 [hide*1 Early years

Early years[edit]Edit

Du Pré was born in Oxford, England, the second child of Derek and Iris (Greep) du Pré. Derek was born in Jersey, where his family had lived for generations. After working as an accountant atLloyds 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.[2] 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 beginning study at the London Violoncello School at age five. Her first teacher was Alison Dalrymple. She attended Croydon High School, an independent day school for girls in South Croydon.

From an early age, du Pré was entering and winning local music competitions alongside her sister, flautist Hilary du Pré. Her main teacher from 1955 to 1961, both privately and at theGuildhall School of Music in London, was the celebrated cellist William Pleeth. In 1960 she 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. In 1962 she undertook short-term studies with Paul Tortelier in Paris, and in 1966 with Mstislav Rostropovich in Russia. Rostropovich was so impressed with his young pupil that at the end of his tutorship he declared her "the only cellist of the younger generation that could equal and overtake [his] own achievement."[3]


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 underRudolf Schwarz. She performed at the Proms in 1963, 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, performing 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 print 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.

Du Pré performed with several prestigious orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic OrchestraLondon SymphonyLondon PhilharmonicCleveland OrchestraNew Philharmonia OrchestraBBC Symphony OrchestraNew York PhilharmonicPhiladelphia OrchestraIsrael Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She regularly performed with such famous conductors as Barbirolli, Sargent, Sir Adrian BoultDaniel BarenboimZubin Mehta andLeonard 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 MenuhinItzhak PerlmanZubin 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".[4] 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.

Multiple sclerosis[edit]Edit

In 1971, du Pré’s playing declined irreversibly 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 program with Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

Du Pré died in London on 19 October 1987 at 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. Russian cellist Nina Kotova now owns the 1673 Stradivarius, named by Lynn Harrell the Du Pré Stradivariusin tribute.[5] Her 1970 Peresson cello is currently on loan to cellist Kyril Zlotnikov of the Jerusalem Quartet.[6]

Personal life[edit]Edit

Jacqueline du Pré met pianist Daniel Barenboim on New Year's Eve 1966. Shortly after the end of the Six-Day War, she cancelled all her existing engagements (antagonizing promoters)[7] and they flew to Jerusalem. She converted to Judaism, and they were married on 15 June 1967[8] at the Western Wall.[9] Du Pré’s sister Hilary married conductor Christopher "Kiffer" Finzi, and the couple had four children.

The posthumous memoir A Genius in the Family by Jacqueline's siblings Hilary and Piers (later renamed Hilary and Jackie), published well after her death, alleges that she had an extramarital affair with "Kiffer" Finzi, her own sister's husband, from 1971 to 1972 when she was visiting Hilary's family. Hilary's claims about the event are, however, rejected as factually faulty by Clare Finzi, the daughter of "Kiffer" and Hilary. The memoir's content in general remains factually unsupported and disputed, and contains significant omissions.[9] The memoir's actual description of events is extremely ambiguous, and describes Jacqueline's sudden request for sexual 'therapy sessions' as occurring within a period of extreme mental depression. The unusual depression (deemed an early symptom of multiple sclerosis)[10] also coincided with a long period in which "Kiffer" Finzi took the initiative in verbally comforting Jacqueline. Hilary claims that she was helping her sister though her mental depression. She also argues, however, that she was victimized by her sister's demands, and concludes that her sister had a desire for her husband.[11] The memoir's claims are rejected by Hilary's daughter, Clare Finzi, who alleges that her father was a serial adulterer who had seduced her emotionally vulnerable aunt in a time of great need to gratify his own ego.

The memoir disseminated the general claim of an extramarital affair despite ambiguity over its possible psychological basis. The posthumous allegation of an "affair", combined with Hilary's claim to be victimized, inevitably generated a controversy over Jacqueline du Pré's personal life.[12] The film dramatization Hilary and Jackie, supported by Hilary Finzi, changes the story line of the memoir on several key factual points,[10] and has been criticized by some for imposing a scandal on Jacqueline's personal life.[13]

Controversial book and film[edit]Edit

The posthumous memoir A Genius in the Family by Hilary and Piers du Pré later became the subject of the 1998 film adaptation Hilary and Jackie, directed by Anand Tucker, that in turn promoted the popularity of the memoir. Both the book and film adaptation have been criticized in various ways for groundlessly scandalising Jacqueline du Pré's personal life, although the general claim of an affair was later spread by others. Clare Finzi, Hilary's daughter, charged that the film was a "gross misinterpretation which I cannot let go unchallenged."[13] The film adaptation portrays Jacqueline from Hilary's hostile point of view before moving to a fictional, conjured-up point of view from her own perspective. The film adaptation is factually incorrect and also diverges from the book's account of events, portraying Jacqueline as being predatory and actively planning to seduce her sister's husband.[10] The director of the film, Anand Tucker, defends the film's public exposure of an alleged affair by arguing that extant alternatives amount to canonization or hagiography, and that he was "deeply moved [by] Hilary's sacrifice". The film and book were widely defended holistically, in terms of how deeply moving the entire story was despite fictional content regarding aspects of Jacqueline's personality and how events actually transpired.[14]

The scope of both film and memoir were compromised by the facts that Hilary didn't maintain continuous contact with Jacqueline after childhood, and that Jacqueline chose to surround herself with friends rather than siblings as death approached. Writing in The Guardian, however, Hilary defended the film's depiction of events and her sister's personality, arguing that it accurately portrayed her darker side, the "MS side"; and in The New Yorker she argued that detractors simply "want to look only at the pieces of Jackie's life they [are ready to] accept".[15][16] According to Hilary, "[t]he ravages of MS changed Jackie's personality. The Jackie I knew and loved died years before her actual death in 1987, but to be truthful I had to show the MS side of her", thus directly contradicting the testimony of others such as Christopher Nupen, who hold that Jacqueline's struggle with multiple sclerosis was more complex, with long periods of sustained normality even to the very end.[17]

Honours and awards[edit]Edit

Du Pré received several fellowships from music academies and honorary doctorate degrees universities for her outstanding contributions to music in general and her instrument in particular. In 1956, at the age of 11, she was the second recipient (after Rohan de Saram in 1955) of the prestigious Guilhermina Suggia Award, and remains the youngest recipient. In 1960, she won the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music in London and the Queen's Prize for British musicians. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1976 New Year Honours.[18] At the 1977 BRIT Awards, she won the award for the best classical soloist album of the past 25 years for Elgar's Cello Concerto.[citation needed]

After her death, a rose cultivar named after her received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.[19] She was made an honorary fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, whose music building bears her name.

In 2012, she was voted into the first Gramophone Hall of Fame.[20]

Selected discography[edit]Edit

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