Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have another excellent recording of Elgar's cello concerto with Julian Lloyd Webber and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Sir Yehudi Menuhin (PH 416 354-2). Menuhin famously interpreted Elgar's violin concerto in a way which had Elgarians complaining it lacked the austerity required of the work. He is not afraid to push the envelope and his interpretation of the cello concerto is perfectly fine. Julian Lloyd Webber gives a polished and impressive performance. But the measure of du Pre's version is that it makes this, and I suspect most other recordings, seem pedestrian and tame.

Listening to du Pre is like hearing the piece for the first time. It is utterly compelling and irresistible. The run in the first movement at 2:25 (and again at 6:55) feels positively indecent as she reaches the climax of the phrase before a lingering pause as we wait for the orchestra to complete the sentence in reply.

There is something in the tone du Pre manages to extract from the Stradivarius which seems to anticipate her personal tragedy. Eight years later she would be forced to give up performing as multiple sclerosis robbed her of sensation in her fingers and the world of a rare talent.

Listening to the recording for the first time she was unhappy with the result - not how she wanted it to sound - but she leaves behind a truly legendary recording, which has been superbly remastered by EMI.


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