A Tragic Genius

“Playing music lifts you out of yourself into a delirious place” said renowned cellist Jacqueline du Pre. She was one of the greatest musicians in the world before her life was tragically cut short by Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 42. She was most beloved for her interpretation of the famous Elgar Concerto; her performances focused new attention on the inherent pathos in Elgar’s melancholy masterpiece and had an emotional quality that has never been matched by anyone else. She was, in many ways, something of a tragic genius…

Jacqueline du Pre was renowned for her playing of the Elgar Concerto and caught the public imagination when she was still in her teens. When she was just seventeen years old Neville Cardus, one of England’s most distinguished writers on music, described her playing of the piece in The Guardian newspaper in the following fashion “A swan-song of rare and vanishing beauty” and he continued to review her performance of it in such strong and poetic terms as any seventeen year old has ever received from a senior critic. In 1965 at the age of 20, Jacqueline du Pre recorded the Elgar Concerto for EMI with the London Symphony Orchestra which afforded her international recognition. This recording has become the benchmark reference for the work and one which has never been out of print since its release.

The Greenwich Symphony will be performing the Elgar Concerto this January with Joshua Roman as the cellist…he has some tall shoes to fill! Jacqueline du Pre’s interpretation of the work has so permeated popular consciousness that any current performance will be placed under scrutiny. Also on the Greenwich Symphony program this January will be works by Sibelius and Bach. For ticket information please log onto www.greenwichsym.org

In 1971 du Jacqueline du Pre’s playing suffered an irreversible decline as she started to lose sensitivity in her fingers and other parts of her body. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In her last public concerts Jacqueline recalled that she had problems judging the weight of the bow and even opening the cello case had become difficult. But this is not how she must be remembered…her sudden death came as a shock to the music world because she was so unusual and so exceptionally gifted! This was not just one more excellent cellist with remarkable technique…du Pre seemed to play on her very heartstrings themselves and the resulting sound was passionate, humane and unforgettable. Attendees of the upcoming Greenwich Symphony concert may not get to hear du Pre play the piece but they will be privileged to listen to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written…

Victoria Baker of Greenwich is an opera singer. A winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists across the world (notably at Lincoln Center). She teaches piano & voice privately in Greenwich. For questions that deserve answers, and may be in print, please call (203) 531-7499 or send email to [email protected]



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