Tonight’s Friday night music open thread is a rare, remarkable recording of the singular, the supreme Jacqueline du Pré playing the Dvořák Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B with London Symphony Orchestra. Her great love Daniel Barenboim is conducting. Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191. It is a recently rediscovered recording of a concert held in tribute to the people of Czechoslovakia days after the Soviet Union invaded.

A rare recording from 1968 of Jacqueline du Pre playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Royal Albert Hall.

In the late 1960s, there was an astonishing confluence of young musical gods who seemed to take the entire world by storm: Barenboim, Zubin Mehta (just appointed Music Director of the LA Phil, aged 28), violinists Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman. But the most exciting and the most astonishing of this godly pantheon was undoubtedly Jacqueline Du Pré. Her personality, her ability to astonish and move an audience, and her sheer engagement with music were on a different plane. She was, albeit for a brief time, the greatest cellist in the world, someone that Rostropovich described as “the only cellist who could equal and overtake my own playing.” (more)

If you have never seen du Pré, it will give chills even to the most cynical among you. “One of the most stunningly gifted musicians of our time” – she is riveting. Watch her, she is so one with with her 1673 Stradivarius, you fear the sheer force of her power, her energy will hurl her into space. Her playing was an unusual mixture of elegance and ferocity – she overwhelms me. Words fail me.

It is a remarkable performance. Jacqueline du Pre is ravishing performer – the sight of her fingers effortlessly crawling all over the fingerboard sends a tingle down my spine. Spirited, defiant, and strong.

There are moments in the first movement (particularly in the last section) when you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard not to be moved by the heart-breaking emotion. The work’s melancholy – far weightier than the concerto by Elgar that helped establish the performer’s reputation – needs to be approached with caution.

That same emotion is accessed during the last movement – a stunning achievement given the false start brought about by a string that breaks just as the solo line begins.

That a piece of black and white footage captured nearly 50 years ago can bring about moist eyes on a Tuesday lunchtime says something about the performer (and the work). – Jon Jacob

On a rather sweet personal note,Du Pré met pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim on Christmas Eve 1966. Shortly before the Six-Day War of 1967, she cancelled all her engagements, flew to Jerusalem with Barenboim, where she converted to Judaism and they married. Barenboim and du Pré were regarded highly as a “golden couple” in the music industry during the 1960s, with their extensive performing and recording collaborations being ranked as some of the finest of their time.

Jacqueline du Pre and Daniel Barenboim interview: Bach in Bayswater

She is a miracle – even in an informal setting:


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