JACQUELINE DU PRE: A Life by Carol Easton


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The extraordinary cellist (1945-87) struck down by multiple sclerosis in the springtime of her talent makes a fabulous figure in a compelling biography. Easton, for reasons that become clear, did not have access to du PrÉ's surviving family members or to her husband, Daniel Barenboim. She was, however, herself a close friend in the last years of du PrÉ's life and was invited by her subject to write this biography. The book was ""well under way"" at du PrÉ's death, although Easton at first resisted writing it because ""it would be too damned hard""--though she had earlier written biographies of orchestra leader Stan Kenton and movie mogul Sam Goldwyn. Within modest limits, she has had a certain success without giving us the big literary work that would attract a stylist to du PrÉ. To Easton, du PrÉ's life falls into three acts: her childhood and youth as a prodigy known for flaming performances and unbelievable maturity as an interpreter; her largely joyous, highly traveled marriage to Barenboim, himself a child prodigy as a pianist who was expanding his talent as a conductor; and the onset of her disease, loss of ability to play, and final years as an invalid. Called ""Smiley"" by her friends, du PrÉ lived for her cello from age five. She and it were one. It said everything she felt. With others, she was Smiley--really not there. This caused deep intellectual and emotional shortcomings, and even musical ones. However, absolutely everyone adored her childlikeness, humor, and great spirits. And many fellow musical superhumans thought she was the most ungodly gifted of them all: a big girl, her bowing arm pulled an intensely varicolored, rapturously supercharged, big tone from her cello that overrode any orchestra. The marriage to Barenboim, himself superintense and sleeping only three hours a night, remained legally alive until her death, although he set up a second family in Paris that du PrÉ knew nothing about. One wants more details, and something about the du PrÉ discography, but we are thankful for Easton until the big book comes along.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Summit/Simon & Schuster