The career of young Jacqueline DuPré lasted a brief 12 years and during that time she graced the stages of the great concert halls of the world, with her passionate performances. Tragically, in October of 1973 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, leaving her unable to play her cello. The extraordinary talent and charisma of young DuPré were fondly extolled in tributes from her friends and musical colleagues, both during her lifetime and after her death. Recordings of her emotive performances retained their appeal for decades afterward. She is perhaps best remembered by the strains of the Elgar Concerto—her signature musical and her numerous renditions of that composition.
DuPré sprang from a simple middle class background south of London. She was born on January 26, 1945 in Oxford, England and grew up in Purley (Surrey) and in London. She was the middle child and second daughter of Derek and Iris (Greep) DuPré. DuPré’s older sister, Hilary, was also a gifted musician who played piano and flute. The two girls had one younger brother, Piers.
DuPre’s father was an accountant who later became the editor of a trade magazine. Iris DuPré was a musician in her own right, a talented pianist and composer who once taught at the Royal Academy in London. Iris DuPré was widely recognized for her teaching skills, and it was she who taught her children about music and initially taught them to play their instruments. As a youngster, Jacqueline DuPré was not a prodigy in the traditional sense, although reportedly she was able to carry a tune at 18 months old—an age when most children are barely learning to speak. There were some critics who maintained that DuPré was the victim of overly ambitious parents who wanted her to succeed on the concert stage. Others believed, in contrast, that DuPré possessed an exceptional gift of empathy that was clearly manifest when she performed. It has been suggested further that she was unable to verbalize her emotions, and that facet of her character—combined with her ardentfondness for the tones of the cello—fueled her passionate music. What is known for certain is that DuPré was a cellist who was did not like to practice. The music came very easily to her. She enveloped her instrument with her own body as she played and swayed to the sounds that emanated from the cello strings. Additionally, she possessed an uncanny sense of hearing that augmented her innate talent.
DuPré was only four when she first heard the sounds of a cello on a children’s program and immediately indicated that she wanted to learn to play the instrument. She received her first cello as a birthday gift when she turned five. At times, as a child, she seemed to be a misfit among her peers, in part because of her precocious talent, but also because of the huge cello that she lugged along with her to school and everywhere else. At six years of age she began to study at the London Cello School. Within three years, she was accepted as a student by the late and noted cellist William Pleeth at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. She studied with Pleeth for seven years, then went on to study in Paris with Paul Tortelier for six months. She later studied with Pablo Casals in Zermatt, Switzerland, and for six months she studied with the great Mstislaw Rostropovich at the Conservatory in Moscow and graduated from the conservatory in 1966.
DuPré reportedly learned very quickly without enduring monotonous practice sessions, and her memorization skills were extremely sharp. Even as a student, DuPré began to perform in recitals. She made her solo debut in 1961 at London’s Wigmore Hall, and four years later, on May 14, 1965 she made her American debut at Carnegie Hall in New York. There she performed the Elgar Concerto that came to be known as her signature piece. The event was herfirst mileston on the road to stardom. That same year, she made a recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra. Her teachers, as well as her audiences, were duly impressed by her performances. That fact was evidenced as early as 1964 when she received a gift of a Stradivari cello from an anonymous benefactor. The magnificent cello was made in 1712, and upon her death DuPré bequeathed the instrument to her colleague,
Born January 26, 1945 in Oxford, England, (died in London, October 19, 1987); daughter of Derek and Iris (Greep) DuPre; Education: London Cello School; Guildhall School of Music, London, 1960; studied with William Pleeth, Paul Tortelier, Pablo Casals, Mstislaw Rostropovich; married Daniel Barenboim, June 15, 1967.
First public performance at age seven; performed in BBC concerts at age 12 and 13; first U.S. concert, Carnegie Hall, May 14, 1965; released many albums over the years including, Jacqueline DuPré: Her Early BBC Recordings (2 volumes), EMI, 1961; Saint-Saëns: Le Cygne, EMI 1962, 1969, 1992; Schumann: Cello Concerto/Piano Concerto, EMI, 1969; formed a trio with Daniel Barenboim and Pinchas Zuckerman; formed a quintet with Pinchas Zuckerman, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, and Itzhak Perlman; extensive discography, released during her lifetime and posthumously.
Awards: Suggia-Cello Prize, an international competition at age 10; Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music, London, 1960; Queen’s Prize for British musicians under 30, 1960.
Yo-Yo Ma. Later in her career, she was gifted with a second Stradivari that dated back to 1673.
Late in 1966, not long after she completed her studies in Moscow, DuPré met a talented pianist named Daniel Barenboim. The two were married in the city of Jerusalem, in June of the following year. Upon making each other’s acquaintance, DuPré and Barenboim began a series of collaborations, including other prominent musicians of the times. The circumstances of their wedding occurred after she and Barenboim cancelled an engagement to perform in Israel early in 1967, because of a precarious political climate and an impending state of war. The war ended quickly and DuPré and Barenboim traveled immediately to Israel and performed a series of concerts to celebrate the peace. While in the Middle East, DuPré converted to Judaism and married Barenboim before returning home.
In 1968, still newlyweds, DuPré and her husband formed a trio with another young cellist, Pinchas Zuckerman. The Barenboims and Zuckerman performed around the world. They traveled extensively, along with Zuckerman’s wife, Eugenia—a talented writer and a flutist. After a time, noted violinists Itzhak Perlman and Zubin Mehta joined the group, which then became known as the Schubert “Trout” Quintet. The Trout quintet included talent so superb that it took on legendary proportions in the music world and eventually inspired a motion picture by Christopher Nupen. It was said of DuPré that she was especially brilliant as a chamber orchestra player because of her carefree and selfless character. She was in fact so admired for her sunny personality that those who knew her well endowed her with the nickname of “Smiley.”
During her fleeting career, DuPré performed and recorded with the greatest musical organizations of her time, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, New Phil-harmonía, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic. Sadly, as the 1960s melded into the 1970s, DuPré began to experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms that hampered and even impeded her performance. In retrospect it became known that she was suffering early symptoms of the onset of multiple sclerosis. By 1971, she was emotionally overwrought and sometimes suffered inexplicable depression. Within two years the physical symptoms were so severe that she commented that her limbs felt like lead, and she had little strength for anything, save playing her cello. In October of that year, she received the shocking diagnosis at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. DuPré was 28 years old when she learned she was suffering from multiple sclerosis and after that, she never again performed in public. Her body, overcome with disease, took on contorted proportions over time; and she suffered great physical ignominy. She used what energy she had left to teach music to others, but her physical constitution deteriorated rapidly. In 1983, in the throes of her illness, she moved to Notting Hill to spend her final years. She died in London on October 19, 1987 at 42. She was buried at Golders Green’s Jewish Cemetery.
Before her death, in 1984, a group of her contemporaries expressed their love and admiration for her great talent in a publication edited by William Wordsworth entitled Impressions. Well wishers who knew her well filled the pages of the book with praise for the her talent and her spirit. Contributors to the book included her colleagues, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman. Charles, Crown Prince of Great Britain, composed a forward to the book in which he confessed that he took up the study of the cello after he first heard DuPré’s music. Later, in American Record GuideTom Godell commented on a release of DuPré’s Don Quixote, “… [She gave] the performance of a lifetime … bold, dashing, almost reckless at the outset (just like Quixote himself).” Godell commented on another occasion regarding an anthology of cello concertos by DuPré, “No one before or since has played the cello quite like Jacqueline DuPré. The cello sang with a warmth and expressiveness usually achieved only by great vocalists.”
During her lifetime DuPré won a series of awards, beginning at age 10 with the Suggia-Cello Prize in an international competition. In 1960, she received both the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music in London, and the Queen’s Prize for British musicians under 30. In 1976, DuPré was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. She was presented with honorary doctorate degrees from several fine schools including the Universities of Salford, London, Leeds, and Oxford. She was named a fellow at the Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall School of Music, and the Royal College of Music; and she received honorary fellowships from St. Hilda’s College, and Oxford. Country Living reported in 1996 that a “milk-white” rose variety was named the “Jacqueline DuPré” in her honor, and in January of 1999, Julian Lloyd Webber released a piece called, “Jackie’s Song,” a tribute to DuPré. Jay Nordlingerof National Review called DuPré a “thrilling” cellist, and Eugenia Zuckerman’s wife said of her in the Washington Post; “She was a musical lioness, ferocious and playful, uninhibited and passionate.” An article in Interview reminisced of DuPré; “… [During her] legendary performances… she and her cello seemed as possessed as new lovers…”
After her death DuPré was eulogized widely. She was remembered as one of the greatest cello player of all time and was praised for the purity of her tones, her expression, and her ability to evoke shyness and boldness with equal facility. In 1998, cellist Elizabeth Wilson, a colleague of DuPré’s, penned Jacqueline DuPré: Her Life, Her Music, Her Legend. A comment of DuPré’s, quoted from Wilson’s manuscript, was later reported in the Post by DuPré’s good friend, Eugenia Zukerman, “Playing,” DuPré commented, “lifts you out of yourself into a delirious place…”
Jacqueline DuPré: Her Early BBC Recordings (2 volumes), EMI, 1961.
Saint-Saëns: Le Cygne, EMI 1962, 1969, 1992.
Schumann: Cello Concerto/Piano Concerto, EMI, 1969.
with Daniel Barenboim
Jacqueline DuPré Impressions, EMI, 1965.
Strauss: Don Quixote/LALO: Cello Concerto, EMI 1968.
Schumann: Cello Concerto/Piano Concerto, EMI, 1969.
Beethoven: Piano Trios & ‘Kakadu’ Variations, EMI, 1970.
Beethoven: the Five Cello Sonatas, EMI, 1970.
Dvorák Cello Concerto/Haydn Concerto in C, (Barenboim conducting) EMI, 1971.
Chopin & Franck Cello Sonatas, EMI, 1972.
Haydn/Boccherini: Cello Concertos, EMI, 1967, 1969, 1998.
Dvorák: Cello Concerto, Waldesruhe, EMI, 1970, 1998.
American Record Guide, November-December 1994, p. 220; July-August 1996, p. 205(2).
Country Living, September 1996, p. 75.
Interview, January 1999, p. 52 (6).
National Review, February 22, 1999, p. 53.
New Statesman, January 29, 1999, p. 30.
Time, January 18, 1999, p. 79.
Wall Street Journal, January 5, 1999; March 12, 1999.
Washington Post, April 25, 1999.
“Jacqueline du Pré”, http://www.mindspring.com/-mmuelle/dupre/ (May 19, 1999).
"DuPré, Jacqueline." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dupre-jacqueline
"DuPré, Jacqueline." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved July 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/dupre-jacqueline
Du Pré, Jacqueline
"Du Pré, Jacqueline." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/du-pre-jacqueline
"Du Pré, Jacqueline." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved July 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/du-pre-jacqueline
Du Pré, Jacqueline
"Du Pré, Jacqueline." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/du-pre-jacqueline
"Du Pré, Jacqueline." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/du-pre-jacqueline