Jacqueline du Pré was a remarkable cello player with a gift for interpreting the classics in a thrilling and unique way. In the 1960’s, her performances were considered extraordinary for their modernity and passion. She flung her long hair around as she used the bow wildly, producing an amazing sound and a new vision of familiar music. I was enthralled by this fresh version of a classical musician and admired her romantic elopement with Daniel Barenboim as only an adolescent could. I never imagined I would feel a connection to her beyond a love of her talented and magical performances.
It was when she was in her early 20’s that Jackie initially noticed the signs of MS, which would first silence her and then kill her.
In 1967 she played Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim conducting.
If that doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.
By the time she was 28, Jacqueline could no longer play. She was incapacitated soon after. Daniel Barenboim took up with another woman when Jackie got really sick. I am trying to think of what I would call him for this. Oh, I know. A rat bastard. He had two children with this other woman before Jacqueline died in 1987. Jeez Louise. He knew she was going to die, would it have killed him to keep his pants zipped for a few more years?
Who knows, maybe it would have.
In the movie Hilary and Jackie, Emily Watson chews up the scenery throughout the whole movie as Jackie. But she outdoes herself portraying the end, where Jacqueline dies bedridden, demented, alone and incontinent. Woo hoo, something else to look forward to.
As over the top as that seems, that is exactly what it feels like. That scene personifies those horrifying moments of clarity when you acknowledge what has been stolen from you.
MS steals from all of us in accumulated losses, such as that of Jacqueline du Pré.