Jacqueline du Pré always seemed to dance as she played the cello, long blonde hair flying freely, elbows thrown wide, left hand quavering in her signature vibrato: a force of nature. “Some things, very few,” says Toby Perlman, wife of violinist Itzhak, “are beyond words. And Jacqueline du Pré was a creature beyond words.” The unanimously laudatory words of those interviewed here—musicians, friends, admirers—paint her vividly both as an artist of staggering ability and expressivity, and as a person of unending warmth and openness.
But du Pré’s singular talent and ebullient spirit shine through without words when we watch her doing what she did best: making music. Thanks to documentarian Christopher Nupen, who knew her well during the heyday of her meteoric career—cut tragically short by multiple sclerosis—we have a wealth of such video, compiled in this 2017 documentary commemorating thirty years since her death at 42. Clips of her playing Beethoven, Brahms, Elgar, and others, with the electrifying brio and heartbreaking tenderness she always brought to her art, highlight the enormity of the loss that her death represented—and still represents—to the world of classical music.
A film by Christopher Nupen