Jacqueline du Pré - A Celebration
Who was Jacqueline du Pré? (2001) is Christopher Nupen’s third documentary film about the great English cellist who died of multiple sclerosis two decades ago. In it, the film-maker interviews du Pré’s colleagues and friends, who all pay loving, wide-eyed tribute not only to her staggering musical gifts but also to her girlish exuberance, lack of pretension and emotional sincerity. It’s all very touching, of course, though if you’ve seen Nupen’s previous films – Jacqueline du Pré and the Elgar Cello Concerto (1982) and Remembering Jacquline du Pré (1994), the latter helpfully reissued to conclude this programme – I doubt you’ll find much new. And an appended video montage (with still and moving images forming a visual accompaniment to du Pré’s and Barenboim’s recording of the first movement of Brahms’s E minor Cello Sonata) struck me as a bit maudlin. Perhaps the most affecting portion is a 1980 interview, originally taped for the Elgar Concerto documentary and presented here in its unedited entirety for the first time. Not only does Pré’s radiant personality shine through its 15 minutes, but also a deeply affecting feeling of quiet sadness that’s all the more potent for being entirely free of self-pity.
Nupen says that he made his most recent film to counteract some of the myths that have arisen about the cellist in the years since her death. Still, I’d wager that Who was Jacqueline du Pré? is a question answered most forcefully by her recordings. As her friend, the pianist Fou Ts’ong puts it: “I always heard in her music the person she is. And music never lies.”