What is the spark of celestial dust that every once in a while creates a supernova of human genius out of the most mundane of environments? Every time it happens we are left in awe of its randomness, making the creation all the more special. Jacqueline Du Pre’ (1945-1987) was one of those special creations, and in her short life she made all aware of the special nature of human expression. She left an indelible mark on western civilization through her unrivaled interpretation of the unlocked passion of classical music.
She happened upon the world with almost immediate recognition of her talent, and happened to be a musical and generational compatriot of hall of fame performers such as Pinchas Zukerman, violist, Itzak Perlman, violinist, and Daniel Barenboim, the pianist that she eventually married. What Jacque Du Pre’ brought to music was unique to her, however, in that she had the special ability to provide audible reproduction of the better nature of the human soul, no matter what she played. No one was able to express the Haydness of Haydn, the Elgarness of Elgar, the Dvorjakness of Dvorjak such that all versions that followed seemed to be imitators of the Jacque style. Like all supernovas, however, Jacque was unstable and at times personally lost. The story of Jacqueline Du Pre’ was made ever more tragic by the attack of Multiple Sclerosis at the too young age of 28, which cruelly stole her physical genius to the point where she could no longer play, then no longer lift her arms, and finally at age 42, after 14 insufferable years, extinguish her life. She left life like an advent candle, once brightly aflame, slowly reduced in intensity, and then finally, a thin smoky ghost of its former luminescence. The strange juxtaposition of a inner human fire that produces such exuberant physical gifts , and a disease that drains the fire with such wanton suppression is an irony too painful to contemplate, but it was Ms. Du Pre’s fate never the less.
Through the power of recording we have luckily been able to secure the brief heights of her musical genius, and the world is better for it. Maybe for a brief moment in Elgar’s Cello Concerto 2nd movement through Jacqueline Du Pre’s hands we can briefly glimpse just how great the devine is, as expressed through the living that are so devinely inspired.