Hillary and Jackie is a 1998 film about the two British sisters Jacqueline and Hilary du Pre, one a cellist, the other a flutist. The film pretty much mirrors their actual lives.
Jackie became a virtuoso at an early age and rose to international prominence. Hilary struggled and eventually gave up performing to become a wife and mother.
Jackie was sent to Zermat, Switzerland as a teenager to attend a master class with Pablo Casals who called her a genius. She traveled extensively and in the sixties after returning from a Moscow concert she met Daniel Barenboim. (see previous blog) They recorded and made documentaries together.
Jackie and Daniel complemented each other very well. Both had been child prodigies and virtuoso performers. Their greatest joy was to play together. In 1967 they were married. She converted to Judaism and went to Israel with Barenboim where she met Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinkhas Zuckermann.
Barenboim said of her: ” Music was not a profession for her. It was a way of life”. The couple has been compared to another famous classical music duo, Robert and Clara Schumann.
Here’s an excellent quality video of Jackie playing the first movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Barenboim conducting the London Philharmonic in 1967. Well worth a listen.
Then two years after their marriage, Jackie was beset with physical symptoms and in 1973, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
She tried to go on playing, but her body turned against her. Jackie lived for fourteen years after she stopped playing and died in 1987 at age 42.
Jackie said of herself: “In a sense I was lucky. Because the cello repertoire is small I had done most of what I loved and I can look back on a full musical life”.
During the last two years of Jackie’s life Barenboim moved to Paris to become director of the Orchestre de Paris and started an affair with Elena Bashkirova who eventually became his second wife.