DuPre A Tough Act To Follow

Having a dunking contest with LeBron James or getting into a foot race with Usain Bolt are just two of the many things most sane people would never attempt.

Add to that list playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with Daniel Barenboim conducting.

If you have ever listened to that concerto, you know that the performance considered to be the benchmark by which all other performances are measured is Jacqueline DuPre with the London Symphony conducted by Sir John Barbirolli.  DuPre was only 20 years old, but nearly 50 years later, it is still THE performance.

Then take it one step further — perform it with Daniel Barenboim conducting.  A year after making that recording, she met Barenboim.  Within six months, they were married.

As I write this, I am listening to another recording of the Elgar concerto, one she made with Barenboim at the podium.  It is fascinating to watch their interaction with occasional glances and a slight smile by DuPre after a passage.

Within four years of that performance, Multiple Sclerosis would bring her career to a halt as she began to lose sensitivity in her fingers and other parts of her body.  Though she would try to play a few more times, she was never the same.

With all of that back story, one cellist, Alisa Weilerstein, decided to take the plunge and make that suggestion to the famed conductor.  It was not a decision made lightly.  In fact, she would never have considered it, had not another conductor who had introduced the young cellist to Barenboim in the first place push her to play it for him.

Asher Fisher told Weilerstein she would learn so much.  She resisted for a while, but eventually gave in, though she said she was a nervous wreck.

It must have gone well. Weilerstein is the first cellist since DuPre to record the Elgar concerto with Barenboim conducting.  I eagerly await my first hearing.

Read more: Alisa Weilerstein: The cello’s heiress apparent (Limelight)

Watch Jacqueline DuPre perform Elgar with Daniel Barenboim (including some nice personal footage at the end)

Watch DuPre, Barenboim, Perlman, and Mehta in a little pre-concert horseplay

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