BBC Legends – Jacqueline du Pré

0 of 5 stars

Cello Concerto in B minor, Op.104
Concerto for cello and wind instruments

Jacqueline du Pré (cello)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Charles Groves

Michael Krein Orchestra
Michael Krein

Dvořák recorded in the Royal Albert Hall, London on 25 July 1969; Ibert recorded at BBC Studios, London on 12 February 1962

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: December 2004
BBCL 4156-2
Duration: 55 minutes

A mere 55 minutes, maybe, but something precious cannot be measured by time alone. Jacqueline du Pré’s 1965 recording of Elgar’s Concerto with Barbirolli has never been out of the catalogue or the best-seller list. However, her studio recording of the Dvořák, with Barenboim, is not entirely satisfactory, and there’s also an interesting account with Celibidache, which both DG and Warner have issued. Now only a couple of months after issuing a live Dvořák with Pierre Fournier and Colin Davis (BBCL 4149-2), BBC Legends slip this du Pré version out, too.

Playing at the Proms, Dvořák’s Concerto really catches du Pré on the wing. She could be an erratic artist. On this occasion, however, with the sympathetic collaboration of Sir Charles Groves, an underrated conductor in some quarters, this is a special performance; the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plays with genuine warmth and naturalness. Equally importantly, the recorded balance between soloist and orchestra is appreciably judged.

As with Piatigorsky and Rostropovich, du Pré’s Dvořák is expansive, lingering quite unforgettably over passages such as the finale’s fragile second theme – where the cello muses over a clarinet descant – and extracting the last ounce from the concerto’s postlude. (By contrast, other great interpreters such as Casals and Fournier favour brisker speeds and are far more classical.)

In much the same way as a great stage actor, du Pré sometimes had an extraordinary ability to spin a narrative thread, taking an audience in the palm of her hand on a collective emotional journey and compelling their attention afresh, even in the most familiar music. At the time of this performance she had been playing Dvořák’s Concerto in public for only four years; an earlier than anticipated debut, in fact, for she replaced an indisposed Leonard Rose at a London Philharmonic concert with Jascha Horenstein. This might account for the freshness and immediacy of her response, and this live performance may help explain her enduring myth to listeners who never heard her in the flesh.

The compact elegance of Ibert’s Concerto is an agreeable bonus, excellently performed, music that du Pré never recorded commercially.

Perceptive programme notes from Tully Potter complete an indispensable release.

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