Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Jackie

On this date in 1945, Jacqueline du Pré was born in Oxford, England.

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.


Anonymous said...

amazing video. i had completely forgotten about her. thank you so much.

i'll have to come back and watch the movie bit later; need to let that moment linger with me ...

what a bittersweet story. thank you so much for sharing.

Marie said...

Thanks Isabella. Welcome! I am so glad you left a comment!

Aren't her performances riveting? Just so lovely.

The movie scene is painful to watch. Or at least it was for me. Which is why I watched it over and over and

Nothing like stabbing yourself through the heart repeatedly to perk up an afternoon!

All kidding aside, that is exactly how I feel on the occasions when it really hits me. Just a howling inside over the loss and the losses to come.

Anonymous said...

i've spent quite a bit more time last night looking for videos of hers and reading about her. i think i'll rent the movie.

15 years ago or so i volunteered at an extended care home, among others, visiting with a youngish woman in the later stages of MS. i remember with gratefulness the time we spent together and with shame when one day i got too busy and just didn't show up anymore.

Jane Turley said...

Jacqueline du Pre was amazing artist. Although she had a short life she achieved so much more than many do who live until their old and senile. And she has left such a beautiful legacy.

Lot's of people die alone and incontinent; a sad fact of life (or death). But somehow I don't think you'll be one of those.

I'm sending you a chapter of my book; it's partially fictional but based on a personal experience; I hope you'll take encouragement from it. I did.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting that clip, so moving. Ironically, I just watched Hillary and Jackie a few weeks ago - it wrecked me for a few days afterwards.

Marie said...

Thanks for stopping by Sean.

The movie is pretty intense. I vividly remember when I saw it I thought "Phew, thank goodness I'll never get MS!". Ironic.

Marie said...

Jane, I am so addled! I read your comments, then I talk to you elsewere and in my head I think I've responded! Oy!

At any rate, I know a lot of people die alone. I guess we all do if you want to be existential about it. I just don't want to be abandoned as a pain in the neck and left to rot. That is kind of the feeling I got about Jackie's end.

Although I saw a documentary that showed her teaching, so I think she was pretty productive until the end, which is not the idea the movie gives you at all.

And your beautiful writing was a comfort. What an inspiring piece! Thank you! xoxo

Snowy said...

I was watching jackie on youtube, thinking about how its a blessing that she actually managed to create such music before tragedy striked, when I chanced upon your comment.

In a way, Jackie led me to your blog, and though I (being some sort of a fan of jackie) was only interested in your january posts of jackie, I found myself reading through your archives, including your own journey.

Its going to sound rather sadistic but I "enjoyed" reading your posts and I find your optimism to life really inspiring :) Thank you for sharing :)

Not sure whether you will ever read this very random comment, but if you do, hope it will bring a little smile :)

A blessed 18 year old who got the chance to visit your blog.

Marie said...


Sorry it took me a few days to catch up with you. Thank you so much for your lovely comment!! You are only 18?!?! You are remarkably mature and sensitive.

I am very flattered that you enjoyed my posts. That is my goal, I love making people laugh or smile or just think. That is the beauty and gift of the Internet, that an 18 y/o in Singapore can read something a 55 y/o wrote in New Jersey and these two disparate individuals can connect.

Please continue to stop by. :)