ON THIS DAY | Cellist Jaqueline du Pre Passed Away, Age 42

Photo Credits: Warner Classics


Jaqueline du Pre was born in Oxford, England on January 26, 1945. She began cello lessons when she was five years old, and her talent was apparent from an early age. At the age of 11, du Pre won her first competition and swept every possible prize for cellists at the Guildhall School of Music.

Her career launched in 1961 when she played a concert at Wigmore Hall in London, where she performed on a 1672 Stradivarius.

When Mstislav Rostropovich had first heard her play, he remarked that he had found somebody to carry on his work.

She had a particular affinity for English music and was most noted for her recording of the Elgar Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra. The Elgar was associated more closely with her than with any other cellist since Beatrice Harrison, who died in 1965.

Du Pre was one of the world's leading cellists to have stood the test of time with her elegance and ferocity. "She was so free, emotional and carefree — not careless — that perhaps she represented what many people in England wished they could be but didn’t quite manage to be," conductor and husband Daniel Barenboim said.

At the age of 26 during the height of her career, signs of her illness were apparent. By the mid-70's, du Pre was nearly paralyzed and her career came to an end.

''I had to learn to reconstruct my life,'' du Pre said. ''But I have found a great deal to do. I go to concerts and see my friends. And the music is still alive in my head.''