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Jacqueline du Pre Paperback – 4 Oct 1999

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Jacqueline du Pre + Jacqueline Du Pre: A Biography + Hilary and Jackie [DVD] (1998)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (4 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571200176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571200177
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 4.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

This biography of the cellist Jacqueline du Pre, who died in 1987 after a long struggle against multiple sclerosis, has been written with the full support of her husband, the musician and conductor Daniel Barenboim. At first sight it could be seen as something of a counterweight to books critical of Barenboim written by Du Pre's brother and sister--in particular A Genius in the Family. But while Barenboim does present his side of the story--in relation to both du Pre's illness and the strains it put upon their marriage--Elizabeth Wilson has in fact presented a balanced portrait of du Pre not only as a woman but also as an artist. And this is the book's real strength.

Wilson, a cellist herself, knew du Pre in her playing days and has paid as much attention to the music as to the off-stage emotional dramas. Since she burst upon the music scene as a phenomenally talented 16-year-old, du Pre's fame and her tragic life story has made the task of stripping the myth from the reality no easy task. In fact Elizabeth Wilson has done a professional job in unravelling du Pre's enigmatic life and legacy, but most of all she reminds us that du Pre became famous in the first place because of her genius as a musician. --Nick Wroe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Elizabeth Wilson was born in London, attended schools in England, China and the USA and studied cello at the Moscow Conservatoire with Mstislav Rostropovich between 1964 and 1971. She has combined careers as performer and teacher, playing with distinguished ensembles in Britain and Europe as well as devising and presenting radio and concert series on a range of Russian themes. In parallel with these activities, she also writes about music and musicians, including biographies of Jacqueline du Pre and Shostakovich. Her most recent book, Mstislav Rostropovich: Cellist, Teacher, Legend was published by Faber in April 2007.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Jan. 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is described as an authorised biography. Any prospective reader who fears this means whitewash or hagiography would be utterly mistaken. This is a tremendous biography. It depicts du pre as almost like an ireestible force whirling along . She is painted warts and all but this fully rounded portrayal is miles away from the horribly skewed and profoundly offensive book by du pre's less talented siblings. The affair with Kiffer Finzi is seen in a new terrible light that reflects far more badly upon him than du pre.
What is perhaps most valuable is Wilson's analysis of her playing , which is not too technical although wilson herself is a cellist .She can explain why it is so moving and expressive from Elgar to Schumann, Beethoven to Tchaikovsky .
It is a tale of star that shone so brightly yet breifly before being snuffed out . It is such a desperate waste that this great musician is not still with us she would only be 55 now.
I cannot imagine that it won't lead you on to want to own every recording of du Pre you can find.
An enormously moving and satisfying biography .
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By P. A. Mitchell on 30 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having discovered the music and life of Jacqueline Du Pré through a friend,I thought I would read several biographies of her all too short life. I started out with the bio written by her siblings called ' A Genius In The Family ' and enjoyed it very much as it gave a good insight into Jackie as a family member as well as a fine cello player. I then moved on to the bio by Carol Easton and I also found this very informative and interesting. Then lastly I bought the bio by Elizabeth Wilson,simply known as ' Jacqueline Du Pré ' as I read it had been recommended by none other than Julian Lloyd Webber. However,I am really struggling with it as it is a very technical book about cello playing techniques and really only suitable for people who play the cello or are thinking of taking up this instrument.The majority of the bio is about music,concerts,venues,teachers,various cello's etc and hardly any insightful biography at all. I feel that if you are interesting in Jackie's professional career then this could be the book for you,but if,like me,you want to get to know the person behind the genius then I recommend the two bio's I mentioned previously.
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Format: Paperback
I think this is a book for musicians rather than a reader who greatly enjoys listening to the recordings of Du Pre. There is very little information about the woman behind the cello and I often felt I was reading the sleeve notes of a CD or a discography.

Not for the layman at all - too much technical information that was lost on me I'm afraid.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
The Biography Jacueline du Pre Deserves 15 Jan. 2000
By David A. Wend - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Wilson knew Jacueline du Pre and while such a relationship may not produce a good biography, this is an excellent one. This book is much needed, particularly following the film "Hilary and Jackie." This book answers all the questions about Ms. du Pre and gives us clear insight into who she was and how she came to be the woman who was unquestionably one of the great instrumentalists of the 20th century. I found myself reading this book and listening to recordings of Ms. du Pre play; an unbeatable combination.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A very complete, very "British" book 21 Jan. 2001
By Ed Ting - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Du Pre-philes are going to be flush with pleasure after reading this. It's a scholarly work that seemingly pins down every concert that Du Pre ever played, often with mini-reviews of the performances. It's far preferable to the trashy "Hilary and Jackie" and does far better service to Du Pre's life and art. Thankfully, the ending segments dealing with Du Pre's illness are short and to the point.
American readers should be aware that this is a VERY "British" book. Wilson uses British spelling and grammar throughout, and assumes a knowledge of the local geography. Like many British writers, Wilson has a charming ignorance of America, and even goes as far as to "correct" our spelling - "The Lincoln Centre (sic)", "Pittsburg (sic)", "The Carnegie Hall (sic)". On page 300, a truck stop in the Midwest is hilariously referred to as a "highway transport cafe."
Recommended for Du Pre's many fans.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Excellent, balanced biography 25 Oct. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Wilson's book about J. DuPre provides a balance to Wilson's and to Hilary DuPre's books. This book is a tribute to her musical genius, her inspiration to female cellists. With the author being both a cellist and a friend of J. DuPre, the depth of the book exceeds what the others pretend to offer. After reading the book, I listened to DuPre's performance of the Schumann and Elgar Concertos and marveled at her talent. The tragedies in her life and her relationship with her family should not overshadow her genius. I am eager now to view the documentaries produced by C. Nupen about this musical treasure whose life was cut short way too early.
39 of 52 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful hagiography! 10 Sept. 2004
By MartinP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When looking for a biography of Du Pré, I consciously avoided the ill-reputed memoir by her siblings and opted for this "more balanced" account. However, Wilson clearly has as many stakes in her recounting of Du Pré's life as Hilary and Piers du Pré had, and whatever the merits of this book, objectivity is not among them. I guess people who knew their subject personally rarely make good biographers, and in that respect the involvement of Barenboim in this venture is worrisome. Wilson's over-the-top, sustained exaltation almost becomes the verbal equivalent of du Pré's larger-than-life style of playing. But even a performer of this stature can give only one "best ever" concert, not ten or twenty...

There can be no question about du Pré's extraordinary talent and charisma. Her 1965 Elgar disc still stands firm as one of the absolute must-haves of classical recordings. Why can't Wilson let that be enough, why the need to describe her subject as if she were a creature of all-round unearthly perfection? Du Pré has suffered much from the fact that her precocious talent set her apart from "normal" people; Wilson widens the gulf rather than bridging it, thus posthumously compounding the trauma. The fact of the matter is that du Pré was not only an extraordinary musician, but also an ordinary, flesh and blood, and therefore flawed human being.

In Wilson's rendering, however, du Pré is literally flawless. This is most evident in her reporting on less than perfect concert performances. The blame is immediately diverted from the cellist: the instrument was no good; the conductor was unsympathetic; the orchestra was sloppy... When citing some insightful critical reviews of Du Pré's New York debut, rather than using them to add profile to her image, Wilson again jumps into defensive mode, not afraid to draw the embarrassingly feeble conclusion that these 'nit-picking' critics simply weren't able to open up to du Pré's artistry. She won't hesitate either to then go on and tell us why she, Wilson, thinks it was actually a very good performance - as if her personal opinion is of any particular interest to the reader.

Worse, by letting go of objectivity, Wilson ignores the core dilemma of du Pré's playing: the overbearing presence of her personality in it, often overruling the intentions of the composer and sometimes reducing the music, as one reviewer astutely observed, to a mere "plaything". It explains her lack of interest in composers, backgrounds, or scores of the works she played; it may also explain why she chose to spend the tragically brief decade of her musical maturity playing the same, unadventurous handful of works over and over again, rather than exploring (let alone inspiring) new repertoire. She contented herself with works that were apt vehicles for her style of playing and was quick to drop pieces that did not immediately "fit" her (e.g. Shostakovich's First Cello concerto, or the Britten Cello Symphony). Wilson off-handedly explains Du Pré's narrow choice of repertoire with the extraordinary and nonsensical claim that the literature for solo cello is relatively limited. Why, even the father of her brother in law, Gerald Finzi, wrote a wonderful cello concerto she never played.

Insights into the personality and psychology of the cellist are completely absent. How du Pré's personality worked, and why, remains completely unclear. Her refusal to accept real responsibilities, exemplified by the willy-nilly cancellation of concert appointments, suggests a certain immaturity - but Wilson simply files it under "spontaneity". Baffling contradictions abound. Du Pré needed an audience to be able to play, we're told, yet she played exactly the same whether she was in a recording studio or in concert. She remained simple and unassuming, yet was very picky when it came to selecting orchestra's with which she did and didn't want to play. The marriage to Barenboim was heaven itself, nevertheless all of a sudden they are breaking up and both conducting extramarital affairs, dramatic developments that are mentioned by Wilson out-of-the-blue, and as quickly passed over.

By avoiding going into these thorny questions and glossing over du Pré's image, the book quickly becomes repetitive, even boring. We are told ad nauseam how strongly du Pré communicated through her playing, how rich her musical intuitions were, and how everybody instantly fell in love with her. Endless paeans of praise fill page after page. Claims are made that at times stretch credulity: did Muscovites really burst into tears by the dozens at hearing Du Pré play something as innocuous as Haydn's C major concerto? Was she really able to imagine the orchestral accompaniment of the Delius concerto from the solo voice alone at first acquaintance? Or are we crossing the line between biography and mythology?

The breathless adoration unfortunately also goes at the cost of accuracy. The violinist is called Buswell, not Buzwell; Gerald Finzi died in 1956, not 1959; halfway through the Moscow chapter Natalia Gutman suddenly changes into Natasha; - even musical terms are misspelled: we come across things like "spicatto" and "fermato".

By the time Wilson arrives at the harrowing final illness (dispatched very succinctly, by the way), she has put du Pré at such a distance from the reader and humanity in general that it is almost impossible to feel moved at all at this devastating tragedy. I will now be seeking out "A genius in the family", where hopefully Jackie will reemerge as a human being.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Good bio 17 July 2001
By J. Okamoto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jacqueline du Pré was a child prodigy on the cello. She made her debut at the age of 16, having been held back by her mother and cello teacher. But once she hit the stage - she became an international star. Her playing was so interpretive that she was often criticized for detracting from the music. However, she also influenced many notable classical musicians of our time with her fervent interpretations of the cello repetoire. Her career as a cellist, however, was short-lived as, at the age of 27, she was diagnosed with MS. Her cheerful demeanor and courageous outlook on life is chronicled here, as are most of her performances.
This biography, while some times reading like a discography of Jacqueline du Pré is a very biased toward du Pré's husband's point of view, but much more even-handed about du Pré than Hilary and Jackie. However, Elizabeth Wilson is herself a cellist and student of du Pré and she makes a lot of assumptions that the reader will also have a thorough understanding of certain musical terminology such as up or down bow or glissando. This is an interesting book, but may be terdious to anyone who does not have a thorough grounding in the cello repetoire, classical music or the playing of a stringed instrument.
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