J – A Mosaic of a Cellist – Part 1

The intimate and complex textures of her life, form a myriad of colored, light filled images.

J – A Mosaic of a Cellist – Part 1

Let’s call her Jacqueline. The intimate and complex textures of her life, so intimately captured in Christopher Nupens’ film [1], and inspired by interviews of herself and her musical friends, form a myriad of colored, light filled images best understood by the heart.  Her life is described as a metaphor for the unity of soul and personality, an instrument of inspired beauty.        

Jacqueline was a personality like no other. Incomparable as a musician and cellist, she was her own person, unique in the strength and confidence of her own individuality.  What made her so special is difficult to put in words.

It seems as if she was born ‘complete’!  A crazy thing to say, but even from an early age, her musical talent was a natural gift.  She played as if from instinct and feeling alone, from the heart, and a formal musical theory was not something she necessarily used.  She was completely natural, uninhibited, as if the music came from her own inner being as much as from the cello itself. She played completely in the moment, a channel where it all came together, the music, the instrument, the artistry, leaving the happy listener in awe and wonder.

Despite Jacqueline’s greatness as an artist, she was unpretentious, kind, loving, and carefree, always ready with a smile.  Without any self-conceit, she always gave more than she took, naturally, openly, and fully.  She did not give people what they expected, but she gave of herself; the honesty of her most intimate thoughts and feelings.  And because of the discernable level of openness and honesty, the truthfulness of who she was, was also palpable.  It did not lie.

Her stately posture and stage presence expressed a natural grace and strength, capturing the full attention of all who set eyes on her.  Her personality embraced you in a bewitching charm, holding those around her in its spell, drawn by her natural beauty.  Meeting Jacqueline for the first time, found you enchanted even before you heard her play, like being immersed in a magical musical rendition.   When her fellow musicians in an orchestra first heard her play, they also fell under her spell, taken by the intensity, power, and beauty of the sound; a remarkable achievement considering she had her back to most of them.

Her personality would fill the moment, full of confidence in complete command of her instrument.  Her musical prowess meant she expressed her ideas with a perfect touch and execution, giving her pieces an emotional strength full of meaning.

Jacqueline was a unique, multi-faceted personality, able to communicate effectively with musicians and non-musicians alike.  She radiated both an air of the sophisticated ‘English Lady’, mingling comfortably in high society, as well as the free spirited ‘gypsy’, equally at home in the depths of the wild.  She was bigger than life, with a boundless exuberance.  When she entered a room, all eyes were drawn to her, and all held their breath in anticipation.  In casual conversations, she was always the center of attention without being domineering.  She was like the ‘fairy’ at the bottom of the garden; beautiful, magical, and yet ever elusive.

Jacqueline was one with her music, giving herself over to her art so completely that there appeared to be no separation.  Every expression was musical, every word sang, and when she played, her whole being was immersed so fully in the music it was as if her soul was there for all to see.

Her passion made you feel larger than life, while her music whispered of beauty, joy, and hope.  She was able to transport an audience, bringing the natural beauty of a distant horizon into full focus.

Jacqueline was exceptionally sensitive with a deep instinctive understanding of music. Her musical performances were so vivid and alive, that you felt that every note was new, totally improvised in the moment, yet beautifully melodic.  She had the gift of genius.   She played from an inspired intuition, united to every note, with a natural control over her instrument.  She was a Master, and music was her vehicle of expression.

She was also incredibly genuine, thoughtful and empathetic, and radiated a natural warmth and compassion.  She possessed a child-like naivety, an innocence that could be felt in the purity and melodic simplicity of her music.

From one perspective she was an ordinary, simple woman, completely open and trusting.  Her sensitivity often left her feeling misunderstood, a burden that many sensitive people share, even if there was no truth to the feeling.

Jacqueline often felt inadequate, believing she knew less than did others.  Any superiority in her artistry was always tempered with a genuine modesty.  Doubt however, especially towards her own abilities as a cellist, always accompanied her throughout her life, yet also drove her to be ‘better’.

Everything in life was exciting to her.   She savored every moment, enjoyed every moment, lived every moment.  She immersed herself into life, into its nature, loving the very source from which emanated her beloved music.

Christopher Nupens’ film captured the very essence of who she was. Not only did it reflect her wonderful playing, but also her ability to touch and inspire her audiences through the natural chemistry of her music.  No one was left unmoved by her performances.

I once witnessed this extraordinary ability when she played a single note for maybe two or three minutes, leaving the audience spellbound and totally lost in that moment.  In that single note she placed her whole being, filling it with color, tone, and feeling, an accomplishment few other musicians could achieve.

Then Jacqueline became ill.  She once told me how it started.  She had realized she had the illness long before it was diagnosed, but when the symptoms finally showed themselves, she was terrified.  Yet all that time she never complained, always smiling and laughing.  If she felt fear, she hid it from view, but in doing so, she inadvertently built a cocoon around herself, hid from the very life she loved.  Even with this act, in her own way, she tried to spare others the ugliness of her illness – we loved her even more so for this.

Jacqueline told us that she didn’t feel brave, yet her positive nature continually focused on appreciating those things that were still possible.  Friendships had become more precious to her, less fleeting than when she was busy travelling the world.


To be continued in part 2


[1]  Who was Jacqueline du Pré? | by AllegroFilms – YouTube , directed by Christopher Nupen for Allegro Films

Jacqueline du Pré: previously unpublished intimate interview – YouTube , Allegro Films.


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Date: February 7, 2021
Author: Eric Op 't Eynde (Belgium)
Photo: Unsplash CCO

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