Jacqueline du Pré

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About Jacqueline du Pré

In her brief career, the youthful cellist Jacqueline du Pré surprised the musical world by her identification with Edward Elgar’s elegiac and anguished Cello Concerto (1919). Her now classic 1965 recording followed three years of popular success performing that work, including regular appearances at the Royal Albert Hall Proms. Born in Oxford, UK, in 1945, she started playing cello aged four and studied with teacher William Pleeth who nurtured her love for the physicality of the instrument’s sound and its repertoire by such composers as Brahms and Dvořák. She made her concerto debut at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1962, playing the Elgar, which she chose again later that year at her first Proms appearance. Her use of portamento (an expressive glide between two notes) was characteristic, as was her guileless joy in performing—particularly evident when playing Haydn and Schubert—that made light of her phenomenal technique which involved unusual fingering and hand positions. She also recorded—often alongside the pianist/conductor Daniel Barenboim whom she married in 1967—Beethoven’s cello sonatas (1970) and piano trios (1969–70) in addition to a Romantic and late-Romantic repertoire that included the concertos of Schumann (1968) and Dvořák (1970). Her performing career lasted barely 10 years before it was ended by multiple sclerosis. She died in 1987, leaving a legacy of recordings that continue to inspire both musicians and listeners.

Oxford, England
January 26, 1945
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