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Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Cello Concerto, op. 85. (1919) [30.02]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suites for Cello, BWV1007-12 (c.1721)
No. 1 in G, BWV1007 [19.48]
No. 2 in D minor, BWV1008 [21.41]
Jacqueline Du Pré, Cello
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli (Elgar)
rec live, Prague, 3 January 1967 (Stereo BBC recording) (Elgar); London, 1962, (Mono BBC Studio) (Bach). ADD
TESTAMENT HISTORICAL SBT 1388 [71.38]


The words Elgar Cello concerto and Jacqueline Du Pré go together in many people’s minds. This piece written as a eulogy for the millions dead in World War One was made even more evocative in a highly emotional rendition by a radiant girl in her flowering youth. The conductor “Glorious John” had played in the cellos at the first disastrous performance and was born to conduct this work as he had done previously with Navarro (now on Testament). He had an answer for those who felt Jacqui’s version was “over the top” with a memorable comment to the effect that in youth one should be full of life and emotion. The EMI recording made in 1965 has been regularly re-issued ,coupled with the lovely “Sea Pictures” sung by Janet Baker, (GROC 5628862) and been voted top of all recordings. There has been a live version on Sony (SK76529) with husband Daniel Barenboim but there are elements in this 1971 recording that some thought too much for regular listening. Now we have a live BBC recording from 1967 in stereo and very good it is too. My only reservations are that it is at full price and, much more of a concern that over half the disc is devoted to Bach recordings readily available on Budget EMI (Gemini 586236 2).
 
In a recent and very interesting “Desert Island Discs” Jacqui’s husband Daniel Barenboim  chose this recording and explained why he had been so happy to let it be released .From the beginning the whole atmosphere of a thrilling concert makes it clear that as in the studio Du Pré and Barbirolli achieve a special chemistry. The playing is top rate as is the orchestra. There is a good acoustic from Prague and all in all it’s a marvellous half an hour. The rendition is very similar to the EMI recording of two years earlier with an added thrill in the beginning of the finale. As ever the slow movement is poignant and tugs at the heart strings; what would a 50 year old Du Pré have made of this?
 
After playing this I returned to the CBS (now Sony) live recording of four years later which shows that the reading developed over the years and this is more strikingly different than the two earlier recordings. The famous studio recording, among its other merits, has a “live” feel and, despite Testament’s efforts, a better sonority. Therefore although I’m delighted to have this recording I would be pushed to rate it an essential purchase but hope that more recordings will be released if they are of this standard.
 
Placing the two Bach suites on this disc is a mystery. They were recorded in mono in 1962 and although interesting are no more than an example of the huge potential of the 17 year old embryonic genius. The sound is nothing like as good as on the budget version (£5 for 2 discs) and the remastering has the effect of making the cellist seem anonymous; on EMI the sound-picture makes it clear we are listening to Du Pré. I’m totally at a loss as to why something un-released could not have replaced the Bach. I don’t know whether the famous Schubert Trout Quintet could have been issued but it would have raised the importance of this disc.
 
To sum up: I’m pleased that this has been released but it falls into the Interesting rather than Essential category and effectively offers only 30 minutes of worthwhile listening.
 
David R Dunsmore
 

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