Cover image for Jacqueline du Pré : her life, her music, her legend
Jacqueline du Pré : her life, her music, her legend
Wilson, Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Arcade : Distributed by Little, Brown and Co., 1999.

Physical Description:
xiii, 466 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Previously published: London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, c1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML418.D85 W55 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The definitive biography of one of the best-loved musicians of the twentieth-century, who was stricken with illness & died at the height of her career.

Author Notes

Elizabeth Wilson is a professor of cultural studies at the University of North London. She has published several books, including The Sphinx in the City and Hallucinations: Life in the Post-Modern City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The short life of Jacqueline du Pre (1945-87) consisted of a youth as a prodigious cellist, a brief international career, and a terminal illness with multiple sclerosis. Her mother recognized her talents very early and accompanied her early recitals. Gifted with natural technique, she flung herself emotionally into her playing yet remained flexible enough to try others' suggestions during a professional schedule filled with concertos, chamber music, and recordings. She met pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim at a friend's home. Playing together in duos and trios, they fell in love. They went to Israel together during the Six-Day war, she converted to Judaism, and they married in June_ 1967, some two years before the first symptom of MS probably occurred. Du Preplayed her last concert in 1973; thereafter, she needed full-time care. She died with Barenboim at her side. Wilson, a close friend, met her at the Moscow Conservatory, where both studied with Rostropovich. She captures du Pre's joie de vivre well. The new movie Hilary and Jackie should stir reader interest. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)155970490XAlan Hirsch

Publisher's Weekly Review

The classical cellist, who flourished briefly as the brightest young star in the firmament in the 1960s and early '70s, only to see her career ended before she was 30 by multiple sclerosis, still causes a stir a dozen years after her premature death. Unlike the rather controversial memoir by du Pr‚'s brother and sister that became the basis of the recent, well-received movie Hilary and Jackie, Wilson's thorough and carefully considered work evidences no such sensationalism. As someone who knew the subject for much of her life (and as a cellist herself), Wilson is in an unusually strong position of being able to write from both personal knowledge and professional expertise. Her evocation of du Pr‚'s performance abilitiesÄher great strengths, occasional excesses and her close attention to the still largely available recorded legacyÄis invaluable. As to the more scandalous aspects of her subject's life, involving an affair with her sister's husband and seeming neglect of the parents who had done so much for her, Wilson finds that these elements occupied only a brief period of du Pr‚'s life, when she was in a state of great nervous and mental confusion as her illness began to take its toll. It does seem clear that du Pr‚, a remarkably unschooled and innocent person to have achieved such a degree of fame when barely into her 20s, was out of her depth in the high-powered, jet-setting crowd of musicians who hung out with her new husband, pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim, and that this may have exacerbated her anxieties. In any case, this account of her legacy, as musician, teacher and benefactress to those similarly stricken, is notably the definitive one. Photos. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cellist Jacqueline du Pr‚ was arguably the most famous British musician of the 20th century. A "golden girl" prodigy, she was part of a dazzling group of musicians that included her husband, pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim; Itzhak Perlman; Vladimir Ashkenazy; and John Williams. Her gift for communication through music and her imaginative, free-spirited nature caught the attention of the press and the public. Her fame only increased when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 28 and her career was cut tragically short. Wilson, herself a cellist, had access to family papers and the full cooperation of du Pr‚'s husband. Her thorough book goes into great detail about du Pr‚'s musicianship without slighting her compelling personal story and replaces Carol Easton's more general Jacqueline du Pr‚: A Biography (Summit, 1989. o.p.), which focuses less on du Pr‚'s music. This will be of special interest to musicians and music lovers, though the recent release of the biographical film Hilary and Jackie may increase general interest. Highly recommended.ÄKate McCaffrey, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

"The real truth cannot be found in texts but lives on in the music." This is the final sentence of this long and extraordinarily detailed biography. Also a cellist, Wilson is filled with adulation and admiration for her subject and former friend. One reads of every piece and every performance, of all ensemble partners, and even occasionally about du Pre's often criticized extroverted and sometimes over-the-top emotional performances of most of the cello repertory. Du Pre did not like contemporary music and played few works beyond Shostakovich. Wilson presents the personal aspects of du Pre's life in a factual, noncritical manner, unlike the other recent book on the cellist, Hilary and Jackie (1997), by Hilary du Pre and Piers du Pre (the cellist's sister and brother), the book on which the recent film is based. One has trouble believing that Du Pre's professional career was only six years long. Her battle with multiple sclerosis was a torturous 14 years. Ultimately, all musicians need to be judged by their performances. For those patient enough for enormous detail about this performer, this is the book. For large music collections at all levels. J. P. Ambrose; University of Vermont