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  • Born

    26 January 1945

  • Born In

    Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom

  • Died

    19 October 1987 (aged 42)

Born in Oxford, England, on 26 January 1945, Jacqueline du Pré was the second child of Derek and Iris du Pré. Derek du Pré was born in Jersey, where her family had lived for generations. After having worked as an accountant at the Lloyds Bank in St Helier and London for eleven years she became assistant editor, and later the editor, of The Accountant. Her mother, born Iris Greep, was a talented pianist, and taught at the Royal Academy in London. At age four du Pré is said to have heard the sound of the cello on the radio and asked her mother for "one of those". She started with lessons from her mother, who composed little pieces accompanied by illustrations, before beginning study at the London Violoncello School at age five. Her first teacher was Alison Dalrymple.

Before long she was entering and winning local music competitions alongside her sister, flautist Hilary du Pré. Du Pré’s main teacher (her 'Cello Daddy'), from 1955 to 1961, both privately and at the Guildhall School of Music in London, was the celebrated cellist William Pleeth. Subsequently she also participated in a Pablo Casals masterclass in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1960, as well as short-term studies with Paul Tortelier in Paris in 1962, and with Mstislav Rostropovich in Russia in 1966. So impressed was the legendary Rostropovich with his young pupil that at the end of her study with him, he declared her "the only cellist of the younger generation that could equal and overtake own achievement".


In March 1961, at age 16, du Pré made her formal début at Wigmore Hall, London, and she made her concerto début in 1962 at Royal Festival Hall playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Rudolf Schwarz. She performed at The Proms in 1963 playing the Elgar concerto again, with Sir Malcolm Sargent. Her performance of the concerto proved so popular she subsequently returned three years in succession to perform the work. Du Pré became a favourite at the Proms, performing in the British festival every year until 1969.

In 1965, at age 20, du Pré recorded the Elgar concerto for EMI with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir John Barbirolli, which brought her international recognition. This recording has since become the benchmark reference for the work, and one which has never been out of print since its release over forty years ago. Du Pré also performed the Elgar with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati for her United States début at Carnegie Hall on May 14, 1965.

Throughout her career, du Pré performed with the most prestigious orchestras and conductors, including the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, New Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. She regularly performed with conductors such as Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, and Leonard Bernstein.

Du Pré primarily played two Stradivarius cellos, the instrument of 1673, and the 1712 Davydov Stradivarius. Both instruments were gifts from her godmother, Ismena Holland. She performed with the 1673 Stradivarius from 1961 until 1964 when she acquired the Davydov. Many of her most famous recordings were made on this instrument, including the Elgar Concerto with Barbirolli, the Schumann Cello Concerto with Barenboim and the two Brahms Cello Sonatas. From 1969 to 1970 du Pré played a Francesco Goffriller cello, and in 1970 she acquired a modern instrument from the Philadelphia violin maker Sergio Peresson. It was the Peresson cello that du Pré played for the remainder of her career until 1973, including a second, live recording of the Elgar Concerto, and her last studio recording in 1971 of the sonatas by Frederic Chopin and César Franck.

Her friendship with musicians Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, and Pinchas Zukerman, and marriage to Daniel Barenboim, led to many memorable chamber music performances, and the 1969 performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London of the Schubert Piano Quintet (the "Trout"), also resulted in a film, The Trout, made by Christopher Nupen. Nupen made other films featuring du Pré, including Jacqueline du Pré and the Elgar Cello Concerto, a documentary featuring a live performance of the Elgar, and The Ghost, with Barenboim and Zukerman in a performance of the Piano Trio, Op. 70, no. 1 in D Major by Beethoven.


Du Pré received several fellowships from music academies and honorary doctorate degrees from universities, in acknowledgment of her contribution to music. She was the first recipient of the prestigious Guilhermina Suggia Award, at age eleven, and remains the youngest recipient. In 1960, she won the Gold Medal of the Guildhall School of Music in London and the Queen's Prize for British musicians. She was created an OBE in 1976. At the 1977 BRIT Awards, she won the award for the best classical soloist album of the past 25 years for Elgar's Cello Concerto.

Personal life

Jacqueline du Pré met pianist Daniel Barenboim on New Year's Eve in 1966. They were married the following June (1967) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Their marriage, for which she converted to Judaism, brought about one of the most fruitful relationships in the world of music; some commentators have compared this musical marriage to that of Robert and Clara Schumann. This was evidenced by the many performances of du Pré with Barenboim as either a pianist or conductor.

Du Pré’s sister Hilary was married to conductor Christopher "Kiffer" Finzi, with whom Jacqueline had an affair from 1971 to 1972. According to Hilary and her brother Piers in their book, A Genius in the Family (ISBN 0434003441), which was made into the film Hilary and Jackie, the affair was conducted with Hilary's consent as a way of helping Jacqueline through a nervous breakdown. In 1999, Clare Finzi, the daughter of Kiffer and Hilary, publicly criticized her mother's account and laid out a different version of events, in which her father was a serial adulterer who seduced her emotionally vulnerable aunt in a time of great need in order to gratify his own ego.

In the early 1980s, Barenboim began a relationship with the Russian pianist Elena Bashkirova, with whom he had two sons: David Arthur, a manager-writer for the German hip-hop band Level 8, born 1982 in Paris, and Michael Barenboim, a violinist, born 1985 in Paris. Both were born prior to Du Pré's death. Barenboim tried to keep the relationship with Bashkirova hidden from Du Pré. He has said that the press were kind, as he thinks some of them knew, but did not want to cause added distress to Jacqueline.

Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

In 1971, Jacqueline du Pré’s playing began an irreversible decline due to Multiple Sclerosis when she began to lose sensitivity in her fingers, as well as in other parts of her body.

She took a sabbatical in 1971 until 1972, recording her last studio album of sonatas by Chopin and Franck in December 1971. Although she did perform during her sabbatical, they were very rare occurrences.

In 1973 du Pré resumed her concert activities, but by that time the symptoms had become severe. In January 1973 she toured North America, and some of the concert reviews from that period were less than complimentary. It was an indication that her condition had worsened, although there were moments of brief respite from the symptoms, during which she played without noticeable problems. She performed the Elgar Concerto for her last London concerts in February 1973 with Zubin Mehta and the New Philharmonia Orchestra.

Her last public concerts were in New York in February 1973, where she was scheduled for four performances of the Brahms Double Concerto with Pinchas Zukerman, and Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. Du Pré later recalled that she had problems judging the weight of the bow, and even opening the cello case had become difficult. As she had lost sensation in her fingers, she had to rely visually, to know where she had to play on the fingerboard. Although she managed three of the four dates, she canceled the last performance. Isaac Stern stepped in to replace du Pré, performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

In October 1973, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the disease that caused her health to deteriorate until her death in London on October 19, 1987, at age 42.

Her Davidov Stradivarius, purchased for slightly over a million pounds, is on loan to Yo-Yo Ma, while the 1673 Stradivarius, named the du Pré Stradivarius by Lynn Harrell as a tribute, is now owned by a female Russian cellist. The 1970 Peresson cello is currently on loan to Kyril Zlotnikov, cellist of the Jerusalem Quartet.

After du Pré’s death, an English rose was named after her. She was made an honorary fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford, whose music building bears her name. She also left a legacy of recordings, which were later recompiled into new collections.

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