Friends, fellow musicians and ex-pupils pay tribute to superstar cellist Jacqueline de Pré in February 1988, four months after she succumbed to multiple sclerosis
In the latter days, Jackie found it harder and harder to speak. For a bit we tried French, the weedy sounds of which seemed easier for her to articulate. In the end I had to beseech her for just one word at a time, so that I could repeat it and keep on the track of her meaning. Her instant response was to put her tongue out at me, for the spirit within the shattered frame was unbreakable. As the illness progressed, and she lost more completely the control of her limbs, she needed reassurance about the quality of her playing.
This was easy to give. The simplest word of praise was received- with the radiant happiness she had shown when bestowing her gifts in earlier days. She never tired of listening to her own recorded performances. Her choice did not always coincide with mine. Maybe I need never hear the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio again, or the Saint-Saens A minor Concerto. ‘What about the Delius Concerto?’ I hazarded on one occasion. ‘Diluted water’, was flashed back. But I relished the Lalo D minor Concerto for all the wrong reasons. The monstrous off-beat thumps of the first movement were accompanied from Jackie’s wheelchair (and eventually her bed) by a series of four-letter expletives that had me in stitches and had her eyes dancing with the wicked glee of the naughty child she never ceased to be.
Jackie did not seem interested in performances by others. I had recently been working on sketches of the Elgar Violin Concerto, and thought it might make a change from the Cello Concerto. By the end of the first movement she was bored, perhaps for the best of reasons. I marvelled often enough how in her prime, when making music with the most accomplished of colleagues, she remained in a class by herself. The intensity of others might ultimately be claustrophobic; with her playing, magic casements were flung wide so that one glimpsed only the far vault of infinite imagination. ‘Do you believe in God?’ she asked. I replied ‘No’. ‘Thank God’, she said, much relieved.
Much of her music-making was in the public domain; but in private she would dare even more on the cello, out of sheer exuberance and fun. The grandest musical occasion at our home was when my brother organised a performance of the Mendelssohn Octet on eight Stradivari instruments, and for one evening Cremona came to Campden Hill. Jackie was there with her cello of 1712. By contrast, the silliest occasions were our two-cello sessions. Jackie would play outrageous tricks with rhythm and phrasing, challenging me to follow wherever she led.
If my playing achieved any virtue, it was hers. She stopped playing, and after some years I gave my cello away. She first heard the Elgar recording she had made with Barbirolli in my presence. At the end she burst into tears, saying it was not what she had meant at all. If it remains among the finest of her recordings, and the pensive Elgar was the only composer to adorn the walls of her room, she already wanted to do the concerto differently and better. Musicians of that calibre come rarely into the world; friends too. Robert Anderson
It is fitting that a respected magazine for string players should organise a tribute to Jacqueline du Pre, for she was surely one of the greatest string players this country has ever produced. Of her genius - and I do not use the world lightly - as a musician and cellist, there can be no doubt. We are fortunate indeed that so much of her work has been recorded (including live concerts), often with her gifted and much loved husband, Daniel Barenboim. She made records also with my husband, John Barbirolli, who was enchanted by her playing from the age of 10 and who had a great affection and admiration for her, as she had for him. As a personality on the stage she was vital and compelling and she always endeared herself touchingly to her audiences. She adored playing the cello in public. Music-making was so natural to her, and came so easily because of her enormous talent, that it is understandable that this was truly her life. Other interests were almost non-existent.
Off the stage she was a warm, fascinating and most entertaining human being. She had a very retentive memory and a good sense of mimicry so that she could tell stories and jokes with much enjoyment and laughter (and rather earthy humour). She was really great fun, and she continued to be cheerful and smiling through the many years of her cruel illness. Very early in her illness I spent a long evening with her. At that time the treatment prescribed was rest, and she was spending most of the time in bed.
We had dinner on trays and talked. Jackie said that she had known so much success and musical joy in her short life (she was then in her twenties) that she felt that she could not complain if she were to have no more. So philosophical and courageous an attitude was to be very severely tested in the 14 or so years which followed, but I never heard her complain.
On the material side she had everything which money could buy, and a great deal which money cannot buy. With Daniel’s support and with the devoted and unswerving loyalty of Ruth Anne, her skilled and dear nurse-companion, she was able to live in her own home - even to die there. She could entertain her friends, who meant so much to her, listen to music, and be looked after in the fullest sense of the word. Maybe this weighed little against all she had lost, but perhaps she was helped by the love and loyalty she inspired.
Certainly all her friends must be grateful to have known her. She will remain an example, to cellists and musicians, to the ordinary listener, and to all those fortunate enough to have known her. Lady Evelyn Barbirolli
Even without her cello, Jacqueline du Pré was a very special person when I first came to know her in the early 1960’s, radiant yet shy, strong in personality yet never demanding, warm-hearted, beautiful, as English as Elgar’s music. None of this ever changed, not with her rise to international celebrity, nor during the black times at the onset of her illness, nor in her last years of patient suffering. ’I hate multiple sclerosis’ was the nearest I ever heard to a complaint.
As William Pleeth said recently, she always gave more than she received. During the main part of her career she used four cellos, the first a Stradivari of the early period, owned in recent years by Lynn Harrell. At the end of 1964 the ’Davidov’ Stradivari of 1712 was brought over from New York for her to see, and she fell in love with it instantly. Although the love never faded, the relationship turned out to be less than perfect, in part because Stradivari instruments are not always suited to quite such forceful playing, and to quite a large extent because the importance of constant humidity was not appreciated twenty years ago. Nevertheless, when both cello and player were on their best form the combination was a sublime one.
Sometimes Jackie would telephone cheerfully from some distant part of the world with the news that she was just off to a rehearsal and the ’Davidov’’s strings were lying flat along the fingerboard, or some similar problem, and was there anything she could do about it, or did I know a violin maker in the town where she was? Once she rang up from behind stage just for a chat as she was about to go out and play, but I doubt if I was very encouraging as she had forgotten about the time change, and in Engiand it was two o’clock in the morning, On her return from those distant trips we would glue the cello up, replace the last half-dozen hairs of her bow and carry out soundpost adjustments. I never heard such an expressive player: she would linger on one note for two long minutes, playing with such variety that one might have been hearing a whole composition.
One day about 1968 there was no time to cure the ‘Davidov’ before Jackie’s departure to play in Milan, and we lent her a Francesco Goffriller which she subsequently acquired. This was her regular companion for the next few years, and was used for many of her recordings. Finally a cello was made for her by the Philadelphia maker Sergio Peresson. Probably the perfect instrument would have been one of the great Montagnanas, a cello able to turn tremendous, exuberant bow pressure into fortissimo sound, but none came her way at the right time.
She had two preferred bows, a John Dodd and a Louis Panormo. The second was acquired in 1966, when a car door blew shut and destroyed the first. When watching film of her most sensitive playing it is hard to believe that with its rubber grip the Panormo weighed well over a hundred grams.
The late 1960’s were especially happy times, first with Jackie’s marriage to Daniel Barenboim, and then through the musical association that they both had with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and others. Quite apart from the concerts and the recordings there were chamber-music parties with friends, and life’s possibilities seemed unlimited. Then came the first problems, and in due course diagnosis of the disease that ended the brilliant cellist’s career.
For the last years of her life Jackie’s greatest pleasure was in sharing her recordings with the friends who visited her. Her urge was always to perform music, and with her mind and ear unimpaired despite her useless body, listening to her own records or watching Christopher Nupen’s film of her provided a bearable substitute. That her later life was tolerable in other respects was due to Daniel Barenboim’s support, and to Ruth-Ann Canning’s devoted and expert care during eleven increasingly difficult years. Charles Beare
I’ve always been a lover of classical music, and being with Jacqueline helped me to experience the finer aspects of music on a level I never imagined possible. I cannot fully pay tribute to her musical life as she deserves, so I would like to pay tribute to the woman I shared 11 years of my life with. Having the opportunity to share with her was a unique experience that made my life a richer and a wiser one. Jacqueline was not only a musical genius but also a woman whose life displayed life’s genius. To have been in her presence was to receive a lasting impression because he found the essence of living. She inspired me to care for her each day and I always made her know she did that.
Her musicianship was full and free - this joyfulness and freedom continued to flow through the spirit of her personality. She created life within life. To express this, she wrote one night, ‘how to be independent in dependence’. I know her naive and childlike quality may have been considered negative by some. But perhaps in losing these, we miss out on the very thing that made life meaningful to her - even in her difficulties.
As she became less and less able to do things for herself, conversely, she found more freedom, because her mind was free, and, being Jacqueline, she found a way - if allowed - to live in that freedom. That was the life I shared with her! She allowed me to grow in her freedom. Therefore, to care for her as her nurse was to live with her in the freedom of her mind, allowing her to be free — to express, to choose, to be — and what was important to me was that she should always be treated as free and with dignity.
Jacqueline found a way of setting her body free, because her mind and spirit were free. Many may not see it this way, but this is the person with whom I shared my life. She was always trying to make things easier for those who helped to care for her. Each night as I left the room I would say, ‘Call me if you need me.’ One night she replied, ‘Please call me if you need me’, as only Jacqueline would.
When people are disabled they do not stop ’being’ - they feel, desire and need, like everyone else; they just have to find another way of expressing these needs. I also learned from Jacqueline that being disabled makes a woman feel unattractive and I did my best to eliminate this feeling by always making her look lovely and telling her so. What a joy it was for me when she started looking into the mirror again and seeing her loveliness. Of course, being Jacqueline, her first reaction was to try to touch her nose with her tongue.
Another thing I learned was the importance of creating an atmosphere of light, colour and movement. This is important to a person who is ‘still’, and I achieved this insight because of the person I cared for and loved. Once I found her freedom I simply helped her to live with and in it. To share her enjoyment in the stars and moon some evenings was an experience I will never forget.
It has been said that I am a religious person. I have only been able to do what I did because of my relationship with God who is a daily living force in my life. I feel that equipping me to care for Jacqueline was God’s expression of his love for her. Sickness is not created by God, it is a reality of the world we live in. Jacqueline gave me so much; the gift of love, life and most of all, the knowledge that in each of us lies the strength to rise above almost anything. The strength I gained from her will move me on through life, with an awareness that I can and I will.
She will always be remembered as a warm, giving, fun-loving person who loved to blow ‘raspberries’ and shock you with some of the things she would say. I will also remember the special times we spent together - many times in the middle of the night when we would laugh, talk and drink freshly squeezed orange juice at 3.00am. Of course she had times of anger at being so unwell, but her giggles were more, making her times of anger few. She refused to allow life to pass her by because she was ill. Even in the last week of her life she made me laugh. Ruth Ann Cannings
I went to see Jackie when she was living in Rutland Gate Mews and will never forget that first meeting. Only the wheelchair was earthbound. Its occupant was a radiant young woman bubbling over with life and energy who shook my hand with surprising firmness. We talked about her career, about music, her marriage and her cellos. We also talked about clothes and fashion in general, especially shoes, which are important when you are in a wheelchair. We hardly touched on multiple sclerosis, except when Jackie told me how she had begun to be interested in words now that she could no longer play. ’I find I adore words and am finding beautiful things about speech that I never knew existed.’ She had recently been asked to read from the Old Testament for a meeting of the MS Society of which she was the Patron. ‘Everything is the same as in a musical performance — the psychological emphasis, the structure and the timing.’
Apart from her own glorious performances, she is undoubtedly more responsible than anyone else for the increasing numbers of young people who have chosen to play the cello, and her example will continue to inspire them for many years to come. Margaret Campbell
Two particular incidents from the childhood of my niece, Jacqueline du Pré, have been preserved quite clearly in my memory. The first occurred when Jackie was about seven years old and I was staying with her family at their home in Purley. The rest of the family - my brother, Derek, his wife Iris (whom he had first met in Poland, where she was studying the piano with Egon Petri, later recalling the experience in his book, When Poland Smiled), and their other two children, Hilary and Piers, had all gone for a walk. Jackie had chosen to stay at home, so I agreed to stay behind to look after her. Eager to get down straight away to playing her child-size cello, she started trying to tune it, her little hands grappling unsuccessfully with the pegs. ‘Play a middle C, uncle’, she demanded, and I immediately, not thinking for a moment that she would know the difference, played the first note that came to hand — I suppose I was too busy watching her antics to pay much attention. Evidently the note I played was not middle C, for all of a sudden, all hell was let loose. Poor Jackie was beside herself with rage at this insulting response to her serious request, and there was no more cello playing that afternoon. Later in the day, she approached me very penitently, saying ‘Solly, uncle’, and generally trying to make me feel better. She had obviously come to the conclusion that my ignorance was to be pitied, not stormed at! But it was that afternoon that I first realised that Jackie was going to grow into someone quite exceptional.
Many years later, Jackie (now aged 16) and her brother and sister were visiting their grandparents and myself on Jersey. The du Pré family originated from this island; my parents used to own a perfumery establishment in the capital, St Helier, but by this time had retired to live in rooms in St Agatha’s guest house, while I was vicar at the neighbouring church. On this occasion we had all gone down to the beach. As we were walking along, Jackie, who always had a keen sense of fun, suddenly blurted out: ‘Bet I can get to the sea before you, uncle!’ and, as quick as a flash, tore off over the sands towards the waves. I ran after, but somehow managed to stub my toe in the process. I’d never seen Jackie laugh so much, as I hopped about, clutching my foot!
Eventually we all returned to St Agatha’s, rosy-cheeked and somewhat windswept. As we sat down together in the little sitting-room, my father, in his customary abrupt manner, ordered, ‘Jackie, play!’ Without a word, she fetched her cello (which would always accompany her on holiday as a matter of course), sat down, and launched straight into some Saint-Saëns. The transformation was instant. As her bow touched the strings, she was no longer the mischievous teenager of that afternoon, but a dignified and impressive woman. I clearly remember watching my father’s jaw drop in amazement, as if in that moment he, who had known her as a baby, had ceased to see her as a child. As the room filled with the wonderful sound of her cello, Jackie was evidently totally immersed in the music and had lost all consciousness of us, her family, seated around her.
There was sometimes a grandeur about her while she played which was quite different to her usual self. I can still picture the figure she cut before and after her concerts, striding imperiously, in full evening dress, through crowds of admirers, carrying her cello with her head held high, looking for all the world like royalty. Wilfrid du Pré
I was amongst those privileged to hear Jackie’s outstanding debut at the Wigmore Hall, but news of her amazing, miraculous talent had already filtered through to many of us at the Royal Academy where her older sister, Hilary, was a student. There was a large and admiring contingent of Academy students joining the enthusiastic acclaim after her recital. From that time on, I tried never to miss an opportunity of hearing her play.
I felt very honoured when Sir Ian Hunter invited me to help to manage Jackie’s master classes at the Brighton Festival. I remember that she was very apprehensive beforehand, since she had not, at that point, done very much teaching, and this was to be her first ever public class. However, our faith in her was amply justified and she gave outstanding ‘lessons’ on the Elgar Concerto.
It was fascinating to watch her confidence in teaching grow. Her articulate expressive guidance inspired many young artists at the Malvern Festival, Aldeburgh, Dartington and Walsall and many other venues. She was always encouraging, always constructive and extremely practical. She vividly remembered her own bowings and fingerings for all the works of her repertoire, and was very perceptive in spotting any weakness in the technical powers of her young protégés. Her television master classes in September ’79 inspired a wide public.
She brought a wonderful spontaneity to her teaching, possibly because it was a relatively new experience for her, but mostly because she was genuinely interested in people. She had a wonderful warmth and her enthusiasm for the music permeated her whole personality so that she was able to inspire each person in their own performances. She had a wonderful sense of humour, and the room would frequently be filled with laughter - there was never any atmosphere of jealousy or competitive feeling amongst the students, just a genuine wish to interpret the music to the best of their ability. Although Jackie could no longer demonstrate points on the cello, she developed a very eloquent whistle — melodious and expressive, and would break into song at the least provocation to illustrate phrasing or the growth of a melody. She used her left hand to demonstrate fingerings on anything which was available and showed meticulous care in selecting fingering to suit individual needs.
A whole generation of young British cellists owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Jackie; firstly for the wonderful inspiration of her playing, (thankfully there is a comprehensive collection of tapes and records to enhance our memory) but also for the inspiration of her teaching. She enriched so many lives within her own short life. We have so much to be grateful for. Erica Goddard
I have many memories of Jackie both before and after her marriage to Daniel Barenboim. Perhaps the most poignant comes from the period after she had given up her professional playing career. I had suggested to Jackie that she might give some masterclasses at the Brighton Festival, of which, at that time, I was artistic director, and she readily agreed that it would be an extension of the private teaching she was providing for a few pupils. Both Daniel and I were apprehensive as to how she would cope with teaching before the public, seated as she was in a wheelchair, and unable to demonstrate on her cello.
On Sunday 9 July 1977, I took Jackie and Daniel to lunch at Wheelers on the Brighton seafront, where we had spent many wonderful evenings together with Arthur Rubinstein and other artists visiting the festival. Jackie ate well and was on top form. She had a glass or two of wine, and I confess to being hesitant about offering her more. In the event I need not have worried. The moment Daniel pushed her onto the platform of the Brighton Polytechnic Theatre, the thunderous applause, which both surprised and delighted her, ensured her confidence. She gave a remarkable performance, singing where she would have played, encouraging and offering alternative solutions to phrasing and technical problems. Jackie went on to give masterclasses in other halls, and on television, but that afternoon in Brighton will always remain as a happy memory of a great artist, and a brave woman. Sir Ian Hunter
We have have lost Jacqueline du Pré. That loss is now touching the hearts of millions of people all over the world, because Jacqueline du Pré had ways of reaching the heart which are given to very, very few. And she still has. It is now fourteen years since she played in public but she remains a vibrant and appealing figure in the public mind. She entertained us, enlivened us and touched us through her recordings, her films, her master classes and her radio programmes, but it was the way in which she did all these things that penetrated so deep into the imagination. Why? How? To try to answer those questions is to run the risk of diminishing her gifts, and her hold on the heart. Talent of this calibre is impossible to explain, one can only feel it, but wjth this beautiful woman, the personality and the talent were so uniquely combined, so natural and so apparently incorruptible that she seemed almost uniquely able to fulfil the promise of great music; to give us glimpses of eternity.
Her personality embraced a curious combination of natural shyness and absolute conviction that was irresistible because it was all so clearly genuine. In her music-making these aspects of her personality were elevated into a miraculous combination of apparently contradictory qualities. She had the ability to phrase with such natural conviction as to give the impression that it really should not be done in any other way, and at the same time to make you catch your breath with surprise and delight at an unexpected change in tone colour or turn of phrase. All so natural that it could not be otherwise and yet so surprising that life could suddenly take on a new dimension for a few seconds. To my ears this is a quality that she shared with very few. I think of Enrico Caruso, Lotte Lehmann, Maria Callas, Andres Segovia, the young Menuhin or the young Zukerman. How do you explain it? You cannot, but in Jackie’s case the apparent contradictions exactly express the shy determination of her personality.
Most musicians acquire their best qualities with the passage of time; as much by experience and in response to what their public demands of them as by native talent. But to my ears Jacqueline du Pré seemed to arrive almost fully fledged, with most of her unique qualities virtually intact. Even her musical idiosyncracies formed a natural part of her personality. She was often advised by wise colleagues in rehearsal to omit some of her wilder personal extravagances in the forthcoming performance; in particular what she referred to as her ’sumptuous glissandi’. She would agree, shyly, modify the rehearsal accordingly and then reintroduce them in the performance with a combination of childlike glee and ferocious determination that would carry all before it.
I recall one such occasion when I was present at the rehearsal but missed the concert and she later informed me that she had done it her own way in the evening after all. ‘How was it?’ I asked. ‘Gorgeous!’, came the reply. As Daniel Barenboim says in the film which we made in 1967 and which the BBC broadcast again on BBC1 on October 21, ‘It is all so natural with her, and comes so much from inside, that you can’t help loving it. I don’t think she even realises that we mortals sometimes have difficulty in following her.’ In the same film Sir John Barbirolli paid her just the sort of telling compliment that can only come from one great artist to another. ‘You know, she is sometimes now accused of excessive emotions and things. But I love it. When you are young you should have an excess of everything. If you haven’t an excess when you are young, what are you going to pare off as the years go by?’
The years pared off more than any of us ever dreamed possible and I am profoundly grateful for having been so close to so many of those excessive concerts and so much under the magic of the spells which she was able to weave. William Pleeth, her teacher and ’cello daddy’, (as she used to call him) says in the film that he could see on the very first day that this was one of the greatest of cello talents and he added that ‘as the next few lessons unfolded one could see that one had endlessness and that everything was possible.’
There lies the ultimate tragedy. The girl who knew that she had within herself a gift with endless possibilities grew into the woman who watched the cruelty of nature slowly and mercilessly robbing her of the ability to express those precious gifts. And she watched all of it with open eyes, a keen intelligence and a smiling face. To dwell on these things is to tread close to the brink of hell. For those of us who were closest to her there was only one thing to do. We called her Smiley because she seldom stopped laughing; and because she was as she was, we could respond to the smiles with laughter and to the courage with uninhibited love. There was no place or need for inhibition; her playing seemed almost to be the very antidote of it, and I believe that we could never have been so open and so natural with her had her courage not flowed from the same essential kernel as her miraculous talent. That is also why working with her was always so easy and such a pleasure.
Jackie drew pleasure from three things in particular, her friends, her own infectious humour and music. I spent hundreds of hours with her listening to recordings and her response was always fresh and extremely direct. She reacted to what she thought was good with the same childlike glee that she showed at times in her performances, and to the things that she thought were bad with a vigorous dislike that some found downright rude. What was most impressive about this was that she applied her unwavering standards as much to her own recordings as to those of others. Such was her honesty, however, that she could say without a hint of immodesty that when it came to the cello she mostly preferred her own recordings. She listened to them endlessly, drawing solace and pleasure from the music and strength from the knowledge that her critical faculties never waned. Happily, in spite of so much physical disability, her extraordinary ear never lost its keenness.
It was also profoundly inspiring and humbling to see that through all the suffering her perception of life and of people was always rock solid and ran extremely deep. This quality actually deepened with her illness although it became less sure-footed because of her desperate need to replace some of the affection that was once lavished on her by thousands of admirers. She missed that. These are the things that touched so many hearts and to which only the heart knows how to respond. Her awareness of suffering deepened too. Small wonder! Anyone watching and hearing her performance of the Elgar Concerto in our first film would be likely to think that her projection of Elgar’s autumnal melancholy could hardly have deepened with the passage of time. I doubt it myself, because I have always thought that in some strange way it was directly related to her youth; a curious combination of youthful sensitivity, uninhibited energy, musical honesty and God-given talent. But to see her in later years, sitting in front of an Elgar photograph that hung in her living room, and musing about his melancholy as she felt it in his music then, made me wonder what she would have conveyed to us if her strength and co-ordination had been given back to her.
I have known Jacqueline du Pré intimately since she was 15 years old. I was captured immediately and have admired and loved her ever since, as much for her incorruptibility and her originality as for her playing. I am proud of the work that we did together and profoundly grateful for it. Such were her gifts that I feel privileged to be among the thousands, perhaps millions, whose memories of her are so deep and so real that we believe they will never fade. Christopher Nupen
Before meeting Jacqueline du Pré for the first time over twenty years ago, I was a tremendous admirer of her vital and compellingly communicative playing. As I became friends with her and Daniel, I found that she possessed an openness and eagerness for life quite without the tensions and traumas that I had often seen at the top of the profession; yet with a certain shyness and reserve that disappeared when she played. Later she became a warm, sympathetic and generous friend - part of this generosity was to give me some cello lessons, and it was then that I found, like so many other students, that she could be a fresh and inspiring influence, communicating her intense love of music, and in spite of being such a spontaneous performer, having a specific knowledge of the works she had played.
As her illness progressed, I began to help more with secretarial and everyday matters, and could admire her determination to enjoy what life still offered: friends, humour, learning to use words instead of music. Finally, her courage revealed the same strength of character and individuality that you can hear and feel in her playing — with all the subtle shades of happiness and sorrow that make her playing unforgettable. Sylvia Southcombe
Possessed with a natural and limitless technique she went before the public with a freedom and individualism that was overwhelming. To all of us who came to know her privately there was a simplicity and naturalness in her character that disguised an emotional strength that knew no boundaries. Hidden behind her never-ending smile was the true inexplicable genius, transporting her audience from sadness to joy and elation. Who but a handful of artists in a century have set a level of excellence by which future generations will be measured? How is it possible to be the complete artist and performer in one’s mid-teens and still leave room for endless growth? Jacqueline du Pré was one of the few. She will be remembered as an instrumentalist and musician of uncompromising courage both on and off the world stage. Rodney Friend
Jackie was always the most exciting cellist. It would be hard to think of another that took as many risks as she did. She was like a tight rope performer, and the risks she took were always for expressive reasons. There is no other artist who can transfer that sense of excitement onto vinyl. I first heard the Elgar Concerto with Barbirolli when I was in college and to this day, like so many others I cannot listen to it without being tremendously moved. She was always an example of a musician who strove not for perfection but for maximum expressivity, daring imagination.
I first met Jackie almost 10 years ago When I took some pieces to play for her it was amazing that even though she had not played for a number of years, she maintained a tactile memory of the instrument that allowed her to construct and imagine new colours by suggesting different fingerings. That sense of cello playing never left her. I was fortunate, indeed privileged, to have been able to play on the ’Davidov’ Stradivari for the past three years. This instrument was graciously loaned to me by Jackie and Daniel. To play a great instrument carries certain responsibilities, but to play on this instrument with the knowledge that Jackie had played and recorded many of my favourite recordings with it, gave me an added sense of trying to do it justice whenever I played on it. For example, I could never play the Elgar Concerto without sensing her presence on the instrument. It is fortunate for all of us that her recordings are available to inspire and elevate. For me, Jackie lives on. Yo-Yo Ma
I shall never forget the day when the gloom and dreariness of Maida Vale Studio, the home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was transformed. Barbirolli was conducting, and a lovely young English cellist, Jacqueline du Pré, was playing the Elgar Concerto. Theirs was a combination that brought new life into this sly and sensitive musical composition; their performance was truly memorable. I worked a lot with Jacqueline after this, and together we toured the USA and Russia. My strongest memories, however, are of when she came to live with us in our house in North London. She arrived by chance really. After a rehearsal, she was so animated that she could not face the solitude of her flat In Holland Park. She came home with me and stayed six months!
The house became a veritable conservatoire; endless music went on with the many friends who came to visit. All the men fell for Jackie, and curiously they were all pianists! (The last suitor, Daniel Barenboim, became her husband). Playing chamber music with Jackie was a truly unforgettable experience. After twenty years, the musicians who participated in these sessions all count these happy hours as the most truly inspirational of their lives. I remember her roaring with laughter, as she played her cello lying in bed, In perhaps the first stages of her sad illness, also her fiddle playing, which she held cello style. On her own instrument of course, was her magnificent legato bowing and uncanny sense of phrasing, her daring changes ol position, and her special downward portamenti, very evident in the final movement of the Elgar Concerto. She would always attempt the seemingly impossible shift, and avoid playing safe ’across the string’.
Alas, she is with us no more. But her smiles and warmth will never be forgotten. Neither will her legacy of great cello playing, which is such an incentive and inspiration to the fine line of present day young British cellists. Hugh Maguire
Whenever I think about Jacqueline du Pré, I always imagine a shooting star shining brightly in the night for an instant and then disappearing. Her career, which lasted a mere ten years, revealed to the public that she was indeed a shining star. Jackie’s musical gift, cellistic prowess and personality were so inseparable in her art that made her probably one of the most unique musical personalities ever to perform on the stage. Her ability to communicate her art to her audience was uncanny. Besides her flawless and effortless technique, her command of an enormous array of colours was quite phenomenal. Personally, I was affected by the sheer freedom and abandon that her playing possessed. How lucky we are to have some of her recordings and a few films of her performances.
The fact that her passing was mourned with such intensity, even though she had been away from the concert stage for so many years, is only an indication of the strength and importance of the contribution she has made to the music world in general and her colleagues in particular. Her star will always shine. Itzhak Perlman
Whilst Jacqueline du Pré was admired and feted as a supreme musician and performer by thousands of music-lovers throughout the concert halls of Europe and America, it was a quite unique quality - her ’loveability’ - which impressed itself so profoundly upon her fellow musicians and concert goers, and was even felt by those who were not fortunate enough to know her personally. The secret of that feeling which she invoked in the hearts of so many sprang, I think, from a very simple fact - namely that the ‘child’ Jackie never ‘withered’ as she grew up, as alas happens inevitably with so many artists in the transition from childhood to adult life.
She was devoid of the all-too-common strivings for fame and success accompanied by the usual trimmings that sadly are nearly always an integral part of the development of the artist to maturity. She never became sophisticated or what I call ’groomed’, but retained throughout her growing up a perfect balance of youth and maturity despite the phenomenal rate at which her career progressed. This quality was at the very centre of her music-making and was recognisable in the way in which she approached each new experience with spontaneous pleasure and enthusiasm.
Those people who heard Jackie’s poetry-reading in the BBC series which was repeated early in 1987 will, I am sure, have been moved by that very same quality. For me it surpassed so many other expert or professional renderings - for Jackie never felt the need to ‘act’ or ’stage manage’ her expressive or emotional powers. They emanated from the very core of her being - in the same way as her music making. I think it was this beautiful simplicity - the total lack of affectation or ’presentation’ that invoked such a special feeling of love and affection in her public, her fellow musicians and the many other people who knew her.
These qualities were reflected in the intensity of the response to her death — the very personal nature of the sadness and loss — a double loss to those who knew her in her private life - manifested by so many. An inestimable loss. But Jackie lives on through her colossal influence on the very young would-be music-makers of this generation. And will do so through the generations to come and in this way will continue to serve the music world which she so loved. William Pleeth
I was exceptionally lucky in that my school days in Edinburgh coincided with Jackie’s first appearances with orchestra. She was a regular visitor to the Scottish National Orchestra, with which she often played concertos for the first time out-of-town. Wild horses couldn’t have prevented my presence at those concerts and rehearsals, and it was then that I first met Jackie. The sun, moon and stars fell into my lap when, one day between a rehearsal and concert, she let me try her cello - the first Strad. With her disarming generosity she completely cast aside any fears of entrusting ‘her’ beloved cello to another (very inexperienced) cellist, and in so doing also put me (an overawed schoolboy) at my ease. I felt then that she also had a sense of awe about the cello, and that it would not have occurred to her not to have shared that with other people.
It was her incredible inspiration that fuelled my own ambition as a cellist, and indeed a whole generation of young cellists. But her own playing was a thing apart, and there has been no other cellist or string player this century who achieved such total identification and mastery in such a short career. Indeed something uncannily mature was at the heart of her playing, even as a sixteen-year-old.
When I followed in her footsteps as a student of Rostropovich in Moscow, it was not an easy act to follow. Jackie had carried such a blazing torch for British musicians. In her brief six months there, she made such an impression that rumours about her playing had whistled round Moscow, and her parting gesture, a concert hastily arranged by Rostropovich, completely overshadowed the recently contested Tchaikovsky Competition. She returned to Russia some time later with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and created a sensation with the Elgar Concerto, which had been completely unknown in Russia up until then.
Amongst the most memorable concerts I heard Jackie give were the complete Beethoven Sonatas and Variations, with Daniel Barenboim at the 1970 Edinburgh Festival in the Usher Hall, hardly the most appropriate chamber music venue. Yet the vigour of her interpretation and her characterisation of this music, particularly in the early Sonatas and Variations, brought the music leaping off the page into the furthest reaches of the hall. Another recital (in the Albert Hall) towards the end of her career, included a stunning Franck Sonata, which was eventually, but only just, committed to disc, as the disease was beginning to take its toll.
I also won’t forget in a hurry two consecutive performances of the Dvořák Concerto, one in Edinburgh and one in London, in both of which she broke a string; and of course the last two Elgar performances in February 1973 when, although supposedly recovered from a period of retirement, Jackie was battling with an invisible gremlin. I left those concerts feeling deeply upset; to those who knew her playing, things were not well. In the years that followed, Jackie had to adjust to a life for which she was completely emotionally unprepared; to face questions for which there had been no space in her hectic life before the illness, and the courageous way in which she did this inspired admiration and devotion. It is, of course, cruelly ironic that someone who projected so much vitality and energy through her playing should have had that tremendous power taken away from her.
Even when Jackie was already quite incapacitated by the disease, it was extraordinary how her mind focussed when it was a question of how to play or finger a phrase on the cello (or any string instrument for that matter). I often discussed fingerings with her, and remember one occasion at Darlington when the problem was the cello solo at the opening of the slow movement of the Brahms C minor Piano Quartet. At breakfast we discussed one or two possibilities, then I went off to rehearse, Jackie to teach. At lunch, with a great beam, Jackie announced (to the whole company in the dining room, who were, needless to say, bemused) ’This is it!’ and proceeded to expound another fingering which had come to her. At first it seemed eccentric and almost uncellistic, but when tried out, it immediately made complete sense, against the background of her own playing - it was a very ’strong’ fingering, in which character replaced convenience or artfulness. I’m not sure that Jackie had even played this piece, but her instinctive response to music was so strong that she could immediately visualise a phrase as she would have played it, even though she hadn’t heard it before. Her own fingering seemed and still seems, in many respects, unique. Disregarding ‘schools’ of playing or ‘method’, it seems to me that Jackie’s fingerings and bowings were always totally married to the emotional shape and content of the music, so that they became an extra dimension, never simply a means of ’getting around’ a passage.
Her total conviction about the ‘rightness’ of certain fingerings was another aspect of her genius, which brought all aspects of cello playing together into an indivisible whole. She demonstrated the total lack of inhibition between conception and execution, the unbroken thread between mind and finger, which is the mark of a truly great musician, so that questions of technique hardly even enter into the discussion. In later years, one of the projects in which I became involved with Jackie was the BBC programme With Great Pleasure. Through the ministrations of the actress Penelope Lee, the recording was set up to take place at the tiny festival of Upottery. By that time Jackie’s eyesight was not so good, so that al the poems had to be printed very large for her to read. Right up to the last minute, no one really knew if she would be able to do the reading and various alarm bells were sounded.
But after months of preparation and hard work, Jackie herself was determined to let nothing stop her, and the recording was a huge success. In her selection of poems and her delivery of them, her irrepressible and irreverent sense of humour was writ large, in spite of all the physical distress she suffered. For the sheer glory of her playing there was no one to touch her. Those people who objected to her mannerisms on stage used their eyes too much, and their ears not enough. There was an abundance of the most subtle nuance in her playing as well as the grand gesture, of which she was master. And all of this spoke of her uncompromising instinct for music, and the cello, through which she found her voice. Always in her playing, as in her person, there was a disarming honesty. And she was a wonderful friend. She came, she enriched our lives beyond measure, and she left us much too soon. Moray Welsh
I first met Jackie in 1978 when I came from New York on a grant to study with her in London. We had very close contact for the year and a half that I spent there. I had lessons at her home in Knightsbridge during this time and have many precious memories of the time we spent together. She often played recordings of herself for me as if to make up for not being able to communicate directly to me through the cello. Sometimes she would read her latest favourite poem aloud or show me things she had kept from her childhood; photos or the booklet of tunes with accompanying drawings that her mother had written for her when she first started to learn to play. These memories have been as important to me as the lessons themselves.
In considering Jackie’s illness we tend to think of the ’unfairness of life’. Could it be perhaps that life is not unfair but that it is our inadequacy which prevents us from seeing the deep sense behind the way a person’s life unfolds? Perhaps it was no coincidence that Jackie had to suffer the particular burden of M.S. Her qualities of child-like abandon, spontaneous emotion, and the complete lack of any interference to the expression of her deepest self were cut short by an illness which forced her in an extreme way in the other direction; to focusing her attention innwards in enforced solitude, reflection, and, finally, the total restriction of outward expression.
Although it seems too brutal to be me, it was perhaps through experiencing these two extremes that she was ultimately led an even deeper understanding of the seeming contradictions of life. It was Jackie’s difficult destiny that both her singular and uncalled qualities as an artist and her personal burden of suffering would be an unforgettable example to humanity. Nancy Green
It must have been in the mid-seventies that I first decided to have a lesson with Jackie. That lesson led to others and we soon became friends. It was a friendship that touched me very deeply both musically and personally; she was unique, very human, very sunny, and laughter was always around. But somehow I was always aware of some quality she possessed that was not of this world; it was unusual, and impossible to describe, but she was different. Even in her bawdiest moments (which were many!), her bitter or her sympathetic moments, this rare quality suffused everything and seemed to inspire love in everyone who knew her.
I enjoyed our musical relationship as much as our friendship; actually there didn’t seem to be much difference, because Jackie was always natural whether teaching, telling jokes or whatever. That I found her playing incredibly inspiring goes without saying, and the same honesty that was innately in her and in her musicmaking, she also brought to her teaching. She wasn’t a natural pedagogue, because playing the cello had been as natural as walking or talking for her, but her suggestions, which were always very direct, and put over very simply, always touched directly on the music. And even though I couldn’t always do them straight away, (especially some of her fingerings, which were gloriously unusual and inspired!) they showed an incredible musical memory and imagination still at work.
As a teacher she was always gentle; she didn’t need to dominate or to prove anything, and sometimes she was almost apologetic for having interrupted! I played in several of her public masterclasses, including those recorded for the BBC; I remember waiting to play, cameras and microphones everywhere. My stomach seemed to be going through all manner of extraordinary contortions, and then Jackie came in in her wheelchair, and I can only say that her presence changed everything; nerves seemed no longer relevant (even though, thinking back on it, she must also have been quite nervous) and I just felt the tremendous love which she inspired, and which I will never forget. Melissa Phelps