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"DONE WHEN THEY ARE BORN" - JACQUELINE DU PRE: THE GENIUS OF MUSICAL UNITY

Updated: Apr 28


This gorgeous photo was taken not long ago by my long-time friend Allison Jung

when she was standing on deck of a cruise ship leaving the San Francisco harbor

on her way to Hawaii.



My piano tuner-technician and musical friend David Amendola just referred me to a fabulous AllegroFilm honoring British cellist Jacqueline du Pre.  Du Pre's amazing career was cut short at her age of 28 and thereafter until she passed at age 42 from multiple sclerosis.


David seems to share a great deal of resonance with me regarding what musical things make our spirits soar, and from time to time he points me in the right direction and to something special like this film. (Excepting, of course, we part ways on Bach or Mozart. Lest I be immediately trashed or cause someone to faint, I assert that I am in excellent company to respect but "not feel touched by Bach".*)


Especially I love when he introduces me to cello pieces and performers (like Camille Thomas who performed this week at Herbst Hall and played this gorgeous Chopin piece), in part because that is his chosen instrument to play. I know he knows of what he speaks. If you haven't viewed the du Pre video and if today you wish a lift to your thoughts and spirit, I hope you take the time to do so.


Perhaps strangely, I am more impressed by du Pre's personhood and nature that shine through in the film and her life, than by her actual playing. Let me explain.


First, I particularly loved Zubin Mehta's comment about du Pre's talents, that she was "done when she was born." It appears precisely so to me, though I am certainly not a cello expert, instrumentalist, or music expert. There is something so confident in her performances, so complete, so resolute, that on those bases alone I understand what Mehta means.


Second, one can be immediately dazzled by her radiant smile, but that's my superficial response. Through her smile I see the utter joy that she communicated when she played, even when playing the most exquisite and lyrical of passages, even in a transition from one phrase to another, one tone to another, and even if the overall feeling of the piece is wistful or sad. This is tough to articulate and seems like a non sequitur, but there is a kind of blissful, silent, deep happiness in grieving moments in her music, and she naturally and easily shares this apparent contradiction with us, and makes it not so.


Third, I loved seeing du Pre's interaction with her cello teacher whom she obviously loved and respected, and vice versa. That makes me envious and happy that she found such a perfect or good fit. Where I am at in my personal soul development and pianism this time around in life, does not make it easy for me to find the same thing (but that has one benefit of causing me to get creative in how to reach my goals).


Fourth, I like most of all to watch her face and see how her spirit tracks what she hears and so easily produces. That is to me a sign of genius.


Genius seems to be and mean a unity of all things along with intention. She seems to be a pure spirit child.


I think maybe the world could not have withstood the bliss and tears of her playing after her age of 28… it would have been the end of all things.

______

*To be fair, here in part, is what pianist-composer Stephen Hough said about Bach. The interviewer asked: "May I conclude with a question about Bach? You’ve written that you feel somewhat distanced from him." Hough replied: "Bach is arguably the greatest composer of them all. I am happy to acknowledge that. I admire him hugely and am dazzled by him. But I’m not personally touched..."

***

SO MANY ANGELS  (from Vol II "Poetic Musings")

 

We’ve missed so many angels, haven’t we?

They choose to play today in another place

So far away from us.

I lament with the elegy that sounds in my mind

for those who left before I awoke,

the solace that I missed, the miracle of music

they offered to share when times coincided,

the student ready to learn or the listener to hear

what they offered us,

our musical Greats, so revered,

but now passed on.

###

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