Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jacqueline du Pre In Portrait DVD

(This was also posted at CBN, with minor changes.)

I’ve rented the 2004 DVD “Jacqueline du Pre In Portrait” from Netflix. It is a combination of two BBC films, both produced by Christopher Nupen in the late 1960’s, and both with recently filmed introductions by Nupen describing the circumstances of the films.

Knowing virtually nothing about Ms. du Pre, I’ve always skipped over the JDP Wars of the past on Cello Chat. I thought maybe this DVD would give me some insight into why du Pre is so greatly admired, and, so intensely disliked.

Well, the book certainly fulfilled Part I, that is, I can clearly see why she was so popular and is still fondly remembered. On Part II, i.e., why she is so intensely disliked, it failed completely. So, I still don’t get it.

I’m not complaining. To be sure, Nupen’s DVD is completely pro-du Pre. None of those sordid details of her personal life are mentioned, and I’m just as glad they aren’t. Instead, the DVD celebrates her accomplishments and is an entirely pleasant way to spend an evening. Other than introductory and background information, the bulk of the DVD is du Pre playing the Elgar Concerto with the New Philharmonia Orchestra, and du Pre with Barenboim and Zuckerman playing the Beethoven “Ghost” trio. I’m not as big a fan of most classical music as many of you, but I liked the DVD so much I’ve ordered a copy from Amazon.com.

Nupen’s opening remarks to the Elgar Concerto documentary describe how du Pre fit in very well with what the BBC was looking for at the time. The documentary was an opportunity to use a newly invented silent 16mm camera. For the first time a cameraman could film very close to musicians without camera noise. The extreme close-in shots of du Pre playing the concerto photograhed from within the orchestra, and various other scenes taken within tight places, such as her playing in a train, and in duets with William Pleeth, would not have been possible before.

And, well, du Pre is fascinating to watch: Whole body motions, facial expressions, distinctive and graceful arm flows. Soon, maybe tomorrow, I hope to describe describe what I observed about du Pre’s playing.

1 comment:

Elaine Fine said...

How interesting. The ghost of du Pre must be lurking around in the blogesphere. The other day I searched for, and found her on youtube, playing Schubert with Perlman, Zukerman, Mehta, and Barenboim. I was interested because I had been listening to a recording of her playing the Tchaikovsky trio, and wanted to see if watching her would help me understand what was going on in her psyche when she played.