Jacqueline du Pré (cello); LSO/John Barbirolli (1965) EMI 965 9322


Some say it’s the red-hot personality, others that it’s the du Pré-Barenboim love story, still others that the tragic emotions evoked in the music foreshadow the tragedy that later befell the performer. Whether there’s a rational explanation or not, Jacqueline du Pré’s recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto has a magic that has made it legendary.

The work became rapidly and deeply associated with the British cellist, not least thanks to Christopher Nupen’s sensitive film of her performing it, but nearly 25 years after her untimely death the impact remains undimmed. Her interpretation has its detractors: some find her unbridled passion and exaggerated dynamics antithetical to Elgar’s reflective restraint.

Nevertheless she made the work her own in a way that remains absolutely unique. Cellists the world over must still contend with the shadow of her playing every time they tackle it.

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