Why does Jacqueline du Pré maintain her hold on the public imagination, long after she left this world, in a way that very few performing musicians have done in the past? We all know some of the answers. None of us knows all of them. Happily some things are beyond explanation. Meanwhile there are millions who remember that radiance and rejoice in it.
And why have we made a fifth film about Jacqueline du Pré when we had already made four; all of them still alive and well in the world?
There is one reason above all others The world cannot have enough of Jacqueline du Pré. People want to touch that radiance because Jacqueline du Pré sometimes touched them in a way that is as unforgettable as it is unexplainable.
But first, my credentials.
I knew Jacqueline du Pré intimately for 26 years, from the time when she was 16 until the day she died. My first wife, Diana Baikie, was her closest friend and most intimate confidante for many of those years, until she too died much too young, at 39, adding one more unfathomable pain to Jackie's life.
I made three television films with Jackie when she was at the height of her powers ('Jacqueline du Pré and the Elgar cello Concerto' -- 1967, updated with her collaboration in 1980; 'The Trout' -- 1969; 'The Ghost' -- 1970).
To mark the 50th anniversary of her birth, in 1995, we made a fourth film which we called, 'Remembering Jacqueline du Pré.'
We have just made the fifth 'Who Was Jacqueline du Pré?'
So much for credentials.
My decision to make the new film grew out of an evening which I presented at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, at their invitation, which they entitled Honoring Jacqueline du Pré. The 825 seats of the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium were sold out a month ahead of time -- proof enough that public interest remains high.
At the end of the evening I was surrounded by about 60 people and the message that I kept hearing was that it was not enough to do this for 825 people in New York City. I should do it for the world via television.
During that evening I made no reference to the legends or to the books or to the family or to the squabbles or to the cinema film. Jackie really is above all of those things and I felt that to enter into the squabbles would be to reduce the spirit of the evening, reduce myself and, worst of all, reduce Jacqueline du Pré.
I tried simply to tell it as it was and that proved to be more than enough. The event was scheduled to last for 90 minutes and in the end went on for more than three hours. Very few left the auditorium and so it seems that many thought it worth missing their supper dates.
Word soon went around London about what we were doing and we were immediately questioned. Why another film about Jacqueline du Pré when we had already made four?
That challenge was thrown at me, and in curiously aggressive tones, by a major television station, a leading London journalist -- in print -- and by the Arts Council of Great Britain, which, in a moment of aberration, gave a million pounds to the cinema film that was so awesomely untrue to her and which did so much harm to her reputation.
Well there are some very good reasons for making another film about Jacqueline du Pré and the first of them, of course, is that there cannot be too many films about our great performing musicians. Why? -- because art is so enduring and the great performers, like the rest of us, are here for so short a time -- and few for so short a time as Jacqueline du Pré.
Provided, of course, that those films are well made. To clarify what I mean by well made I would like to use the definition of a good film at one of the world's finest film institutions, the Swedish Film Institute; provided they are, "generous in content and expression, with an honest intention and excellent technical skill." It is worth stressing the requirement for an honest intention.
The second reason is that film remembers our artists in a way that not one of the other media is quite able to match.
Books, newspapers, critics, musicologists, radio, audio recordings and, of course, concerts may be able to do more for the art itself, but when it comes to remembering our artists and the artistic persona, which is such an essential part of the alchemy, film does something that none of the others can do to the same degree or with the same intimacy. I suppose one may also say with the same veracity, because on film we can see the real thing actually making it's magic -- and in close-up. There is no better way to remember what an artist is really like.
We should remember also that this is something new in the world. It is unique to the second half of the twentieth century. What would we give now to see a really well made film with Franz Liszt, or Niccolo Paganini, or Johannes Brahms, or a young fellow born in Salzburg in 1756, who romped around Europe in much the way that Jacqueline du Pré did 210 years later?
Well, there was no film in 1756 and we have no film of those extraordinary artists but I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time in history when a new kind of silent camera was invented and I and my colleagues David Findlay and Peter Heelas were lucky to become the pioneers of a new kind of film that had never before been possible, simply because the equipment needed to make such films had never previously existed.
One of our very first films was a film about Jacqueline du Pré and it started with her playing pizzicato cello and singing a French folk song in a train on the way to Gatwick airport. That could not have been done with the old cameras and it held an audience of millions of people on BBC1, the prime television channel in the United Kingdom at the time.
That was partly because there had never been anything quite like it before but mostly, of course, because it was a close-shot of an extraordinary performing spirit in full flight -- in an informal situation, full of her infectious joie de vivre, full of smiles, full of music -- and giving. As Zubin Mehta says in our new film, she was always giving.
That shot of Jackie in the train was dynamite in 1967, and for those of us who have made this new film, Jacqueline du Pré, when you see her and hear her in action, is still dynamite today. We think we remember what an artist gives to us -- and we do remember, but the things that we remember are the external things. The essentials, (just as with love and pain), we don't really remember until they actually touch us again.
And so the third reason for making this film is to remind us of things which we cannot really remember.
There is a fourth reason, and it is this. Neither we nor anybody else has ever made a film about what kind of person she was. All our other films are about what kind of an artist she was. She was such an unmistakable presence in the world that we took the personality for granted.
We cannot do that any more because Jacqueline du Pré has now passed into legend and legends are dangerous. They destroyed Paganini, in his own lifetime and they are especially dangerous in a time that is making a fashion of knocking our heroes. The things that have been written and said about Jacqueline du Pré in recent years have wandered further and further from the truth and presented a picture of her that is not only untrue to her but in many respects the exact opposite of the real woman who trod this earth for so short a space and who touched the hearts of so many millions of people.
Not all of the story-making is foolish. Jacqueline du Pré was so unusual and her gift so unfathomable that the world had to invent myths to explain it all and, as usual with myths, to embellish them as time went by in an effort to keep the flame alive.
Naturally most of the stories are silly and are best forgotten. While the world goes on debating about Paganini, we, for the first time, can see what the artist was really like -- on film. Jackie loved all the films that we made with her, from when they were made until the very end of her life. In a way they seem to me now to be Jackie wanting to come back to us. She certainly would think that. I know that from Jackie herself.
I can still hear her voice, speaking when we updated the first film in 1980, saying, "Kitty, Kitty, you cannot imagine what it feels like to me to know that I am playing for people again in our film" It struck me like thunder at the time and I have never forgotten that she said "our film.". Not her film, not my film but our film. Jackie may not have known what day of the week it was, but on the things that really matter to human beings, her judgement and her perception were rock solid and ran extremely deep; deeper than almost anyone gave her credit for. I never saw her put a foot wrong with the things of real importance to those around her and I never saw anybody come into her presence who was not in some way enlivened by her. That is an astonishing gift.
And so, for all those reasons, and a few others besides -- and without any help from the Arts Council -- and with an honest intention -- we have set out to do the same thing in our new film as I did at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. We have used previously unpublished images of Jacqueline du Pré, (all shot by us in her great years), and put those images in context with the testimony of the people who knew her best. This film is a tribute to the woman, just as our previous films were tributes to the artist.
The contributors include Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Toby Perlman, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, The Duchess of Kent, Lady Evelyn Barbirolli, Charles Beare (who was one of her closest personal friends and who looked after all her 'cellos from the start of her career), Vladimir Ashkenazy, Hugh Maguire, Fou Ts'ong, her doctor Leonard Selby and her close friend and biographer, Elizabeth Wilson. All these people felt strongly that this film should be made and their intimate knowledge of the subject gives a quality of conviction and authenticity to their personal recollections which is telling.
The film consists one hundred per cent of previously unpublished material, although many viewers will recognise some of the situations; in particular some shots from rehearsals for 'The Trout' -- which have never been shown before -- and where viewers will see just how unstoppable she is, when she really gets going.
The film was broadcast for the first-time on the Channel 5 network in the United Kingdom in February 2001 and prompted more letters and telephone calls than we have ever had before, which is saying something. Channel 5 received more than 50 phone calls on the day of the broadcast alone.
I think that the size of the mailbag and the passion in it have much to do with a widely held feeling that injustices have been done, added to the belief that television is a good place for setting injustices to rights.
The response has been better than we ever dared hope for but we have a problem. Public service broadcasting, which has regarded music as an essential element since the day it started, (one might even say a moral obligation), is retreating from high-level music programming because it is expensive to make and appeals only to millions of people, not to hundreds of millions.
Television feels forced to abandon the high ideals that it grew up with and if this sort of work is to survive in the world it will have to be financed, in part at least, by individuals who have not lost their high ideals and who will be pleased and proud to be associated with work of this kind and with the artists who touch them. Art has long needed visionary patronage of one kind or another.
And so, for the first time in our history and more than 70 productions, we are looking for a benefactor or benefactors who would like to be associated with this project, to help us pay for what we have done already, to make all the foreign versions and to place them in as many corners of the world as possible. That means not only on television but on VHS and DVD for home video, and to make it available to schools, libraries, universities, music institutions and colleges world wide in as many languages as possible.
We are looking for £60,000 and so, if you, the reader are willing to make a contribution, whatever the size, and/or if you know or can suggest potential sponsors for this film, please let us know at, JackieAllegro@aol.com
or by mail to
Allegro Films c/o Moore Stephens Priory House Sydenham Road Guildford GU1 3RX GB/United Kingdom
or by direct contribution. The contribution account details are as follows:
The Royal Bank of Scotland
22 High Street
St Peter Port
Guernsey GY1 4BQ
Account name : Allegro Films-Jacqueline du Pré
Account number : 10261152
Bank Code 16-20-29
Payments may be made in £ sterling, US $ or Euro.
or (in the United States, in US $)
Chase Manhattan Bank 126 East 86 Street
New York, NY 10028
account number: 6880090023-65
routing number: 021000021 (for wire transfer)
account name : Esti Marpet
One final thought. I said earlier in this article that we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time in history. I meant not only for ourselves but for future generations and for Jacqueline du Pré herself. Her extraordinary gifts were carried around the world by television and, in just two or three years, won her a devoted audience world wide of a size that it took Jascha Heifetz and Arthur Rubinstein forty years to build.
Thank the heavens and all that is holy for that, because none of us knew at the time that Jacqueline du Pré's career would be so frighteningly short.
We have lost Jacqueline du Pré but we have been able to keep more of what she had to give us than has ever before been possible because she was here at the right time in history. Now we have to find a way to keep that audio visual legacy alive in the world and we invite those who want to identify with it and to share in that radiance to help us if they can.
© Christopher Nupen, Paris, 25 May 2001
|Direct correspondence to the appropriate ICS
Webmaster: Michael Pimomo Director: John Michel
Copyright © 1995- Internet Cello Society