Jacqueline du Pré

Elgar, Priaulx Rainier: Cello Concertos; Rubbra: Cell Sonata

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Cellist Jacqueline du Pré needs little introduction to most listeners. Whether as a result of being perhaps the most prominent female cellist in the last century, her meteoric rise to fame at a young age, the equally rapid decline of her career at the hands of multiple sclerosis, or simply the incredible passion with which she performed, du Pré possessed a singular capacity to make an impression on her audiences. She was single-handedly responsible for reviving the long-dormant Elgar concerto that was to become one of her trademark pieces. The BBC Legends album features one of the earlier recordings of the concerto that du Pré was to make with Malcolm Sargent, who, in 1962, was responsible for a trainwreck accompaniment at their first performance together. This 1964 recording is far superior, with Sargent and the BBC precisely following du Pré. While not quite as lush and engaging as the version she was to make later with her husband Daniel Barenboim, this reading lets listeners hear just how fluid and flexible du Pré's playing was from one performance to the next. On the opposite end of the often performed and frequently recorded Elgar is the cello concerto of Priauix Rainier, commissioned for du Pré for her 1964 Proms performance. Du Pré was not fond of "new" music, and the work is certainly out of character for her style of playing, yet she approaches it with the same vim as the more familiar late-Romantic concertos. This disc concludes with yet another infrequently heard work, the Cello Sonata in G minor by Edmund Rubbra, written for du Pré's teacher William Pleeth. More in line with du Pré's character, this sonata shows listeners just how versatile of a musician du Pré was. Sound quality throughout the album is quite nice, with the exception of the clumsy sound of the piano in the Rubbra sonata.

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