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Jacqueline DU PRE (1945-1987) - In Portrait (DVD)
The Christopher Nupen Films
Including full performances of:
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Cello Concerto in E minor op.85
Jacqueline du Pré, cello
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Trio no.5 in D, op.70 no.1 (The Ghost)
Daniel Barenboim, piano, Pinchas Zukerman, violin, Jacqueline du Pré, ‘cello
Produced in this format 2004
DVD Producer, Ferenc van Damme
DVD Executive Producers, Hans Petri, Christopher Nupen
Allegro Films – The Christopher Nupen Films
BBC OPUS ARTE OA CN0902 D [2:35 approx]


Christopher Nupen produced his film profile of cellist Jacqueline du Pré in 1967, when she was at the zenith of her powers at the remarkably young age of twenty-two. In this DVD, the original film has been intercut with a sequel, made in 1982, after the onset of multiple sclerosis which put an untimely end to her playing days at the age of just twenty-eight. The juxtaposition is obviously intensely poignant, and is somehow made the more so by the monochrome of the earlier film contrasted with the full colour of the later additions. This contrast is handled with supreme sensitivity by Christopher Nupen and his editors, and there is not the slightest suspicion of sentimentality or sensationalism.

Many music-lovers will recall the 1967 film when it was first shown, and the insight it gave into the world of this precocious yet joyous individual. All of that is still intact, and there is so much of intense interest to musicians and music-lovers alike that it is a treat to be able to watch it again and again. As Nupen points out, in her personality as in her playing, she was a woman of striking contrasts. That strangely prim pseudo-continental diction she affected (she dropped it later in life) makes a fascinating mixture with her undoubted feminine charms. There is a great moment where she is seen striding down a crowded pavement, her priceless Stradivarius (in its case of course) carried almost recklessly through the throng. Two chaps turn around to take a good look; needless to say, it’s not the ’cello they’re admiring – she was a cracker!

But it is the sheer, unforced natural musicianship that is most stunning, whether playing a little de Fesch duet with Bill Pleeth, her "cello-Daddy" or in the epic emotions of the Elgar Concerto. Her approach was always the same – total emotional and musical honesty, coupled with a technique that was so fine that it often went unnoticed. Barenboim is most revealing when interviewed on this topic, while reflecting ruefully on the difficulty for ‘mere mortals’ in following her sometimes wayward sense of phrasing.

The two performances recorded here are priceless; one a typically compelling performance of the Elgar with Barenboim and the Philharmonia, the other perhaps even more striking – Beethoven’s Ghost Trio, with Barenboim and Zukerman. In Nupen’s short filmed introduction to this, he relates how the young trio stepped in at the last minute when a planned session with Segovia fell through.

This is a priceless document, as well as deeply satisfying viewing, and it is very exciting to see the list of forthcoming projects on DVD that Nupen and Allegro Films are planning – I won’t list them here, but if you’re interested, go to www.allegrofilms.com – it’s sure to whet you appetite!

Gwyn Parry-Jones



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