Jacqueline Du Pre: Her Life, Her Music, Her Legend

Elizabeth Wilson, Author
Elizabeth Wilson, Author Arcade Publishing $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-55970-490-8
Hardcover - 466 pages - 978-0-297-81570-9
Paperback - 466 pages - 978-1-55970-519-6
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The classical cellist, who flourished briefly as the brightest young star in the firmament in the 1960s and early '70s, only to see her career ended before she was 30 by multiple sclerosis, still causes a stir a dozen years after her premature death. Unlike the rather controversial memoir by du Pr 's brother and sister that became the basis of the recent, well-received movie Hilary and Jackie, Wilson's thorough and carefully considered work evidences no such sensationalism. As someone who knew the subject for much of her life (and as a cellist herself), Wilson is in an unusually strong position of being able to write from both personal knowledge and professional expertise. Her evocation of du Pr 's performance abilities--her great strengths, occasional excesses and her close attention to the still largely available recorded legacy--is invaluable. As to the more scandalous aspects of her subject's life, involving an affair with her sister's husband and seeming neglect of the parents who had done so much for her, Wilson finds that these elements occupied only a brief period of du Pr 's life, when she was in a state of great nervous and mental confusion as her illness began to take its toll. It does seem clear that du Pr , a remarkably unschooled and innocent person to have achieved such a degree of fame when barely into her 20s, was out of her depth in the high-powered, jet-setting crowd of musicians who hung out with her new husband, pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim, and that this may have exacerbated her anxieties. In any case, this account of her legacy, as musician, teacher and benefactress to those similarly stricken, is notably the definitive one. Photos. (Apr.)
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