Monday, January 21, 2008

Slightly tarnished halo

Was watching this DVD about Jacqueline Du Pre last night, in absence of anything better on TV (Poulenc's Carmelites, isn't that one of the few modern operas with the viola d'amore? Yes, I should have watched it, but....). A slightly complicated DVD, trying to find the relevant bits; it seems to have more than one film about it. On my first attempt I found lots of snippets about all sorts of people (like Segovia and other non JDP people), then I came across a film called 'Remembering Jacqueline', and really late I found one other. There might be another one yet.

'Remembering Jacqueline' was ok; a collection of people talking about her after her death, interspersed with shots generally of her blue eyes. I did not much care for the extremely skinny American lady who was all perfect teeth and eyes, but I really liked her doctor who was the soul of professional discretion.

JDP is my gold standard as far as the Elgar is concerned (which I am sure I am still to find somewhere on this DVD) - and maybe I'll change my mind. In some of the other scenes I thought she was rather playing to the camera. There was an awesome moment when a quintet, including Zubin Mehta on double bass, swapped round their instruments. JDP ended up with a violin which she held upside down, and promptly launched, from memory, into the beginning of the Mendelssohn violin concerto (which she would not have been in much danger to get involved with normally).

What disturbed me, however, was her playing of the Kol Nidre. Not only did it accompany a scene which was not the most fitting (she and her beloved Danny were visiting the EMI recording studio, meeting the delightful Suvi Raj Grubb to discuss some Brahms recording; though she seemed to spend more time gazing into Danny's eyes), but her playing of it was rather jaunty, not that far off the Golliwog's Cakewalk. Those of us who heard Misha Maisky play this piece in Vilnius in 2004 will never cease to be moved by his sobbing interpretation of the piece (I wonder if he has recorded it). But then again, I suppose at the time JDP was young and had probably not at that stage experienced much pain and suffering.

What was also remarkable in the film, the live JDP scenes having been shot in the 60s and early 70s, was how much she seemed to be engaged in ordinary life; walking along the street with her (expensive?) cello in her hand, waiting at a bus stop...There's a lovely scene where she wanders along a street, away from the camera - as she disappears into the distance, a delivery boy's bicycle slowly topples over in the foreground. No doubt totally overcome by awe.

It's a stunning collection of films.