The story of Jacqueline Dupré is well known in musical circles. Du
Pré a brilliantly gifted young pianist was strongly identified with
the Elgar Cello Concerto although she recorded much of the cello repertoire.
She rose to an early maturity and sustained that attainment until her premature
death. Her story has been recounted in a recent biography by Hilary and Piers
This collection of about 15 minutes of original music by Barrington Pheloung
and music by Elgar, Bach and Iris Du Pré is doubly attractive. The
Pheloung music is strong and memorable. The Elgar Cello Concerto performance
is gripping and real in a way that many `perfect' studio events can only
weakly aspire to.
Barrington Pheloung's tracks 2, 4 and 6 use a long silky cantilena on highest
violins with harp lighting the path and woodwind entries lightening the
atmosphere. Sibelius Rakastava, Mahler's Adagietto (Symphony
No 5 - Death in Venice being rather an apt echo here) and Barber's
Adagio are all clear influences. The music also has some of the
atmospheric pastoral requiem atmosphere of Geoffrey Burgon's music (available
on Silva Screen) for BBCTV's 1980s adaptation of Testament of Youth.
The music inhabits a quiet still world singing with that special blend of
sadness and beauty.
Track 5 offers Iris Du Pré's Holiday Song for cello and piano.
This is a dream-serenade with a strong whiff of salon charm. A Day on
the Beach  is strikingly attractive - a marine picture breathing the
deep surging currents of the sea. The cello cries heart-achingly above the
waves. Pheloung has certainly heard Granville Bantock's Hebridean Symphony
and the cry of wave and of Delius/Whitman's Sea Drifting, bereft and
`solitary guest from Alabama' call out across the seascape. There is a pulsing
passion here that is quite overpowering. This soon subsides and returns to
the atmospheric and entrancing world of tracks 2, 4 and 6.
Track 7 is the undoubted highlight of the album. Utterly beguiling playing
by Caroline Dale and the orchestra.
You are not getting much of Pheloung's original music but what there is
definitely worth hearing. It can be appreciated and enjoyed with no knowledge
of the film.
You get the most characterful performance of the Elgar concerto and you get
it complete on tracks 8-11. For me this performance, first issued on CBS
LP in the late 1970s, has spoilt every other performance I have heard, even
the rightly-vaunted Barbirolli studio performance. For all Barbirolli's glowing
embers and EMI's refined sound it cannot hold a cool candle to the torch-like
intensity of Du Pré, Barenboim and the fabulous Philadelphians. This
is a Hall Of Fame performance. When you get tired of clean all-star performances
- ultimately transient delights - then turn to this for emotion and (to date)
the best approximation of the concert experience. If you are allergic to
the odd cough and must have the best sound then you will be disappointed.
If you love the Elgar and can live with perfectly respectable 1970s sound
then go for this CD.