A stunning case of BBC Du Pré duplicity

A stunning case of BBC Du Pré duplicity


norman lebrecht

August 27, 2017

Jan Younghusband, BBC Music’s head of TV commissioning, has announced a retrospective to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of the British cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

Younghusband said: ‘It seemed a good time to pause and reflect on Jacqueline’s career, her unique contribution to the world, and the loss we still feel in the music world now that she is not with us anymore.’


Let us remind those with short memories that Jan Younghusband co-produced a book and a film on the sexual abuse of Jackie by her brother-in-law at a time when her mind was disturbed by the onset of multiple sclerosis. Much of the book was factually unfounded.

From my 1997 Spectator review: ‘ I don’t think I have ever opened a tackier or more disingenuous book than this ‘intimate memoir’ of the cellist Jacqueline du Pre by her elder sister and younger brother, Hilary and Piers.’

The same Jan Younghusband now wants us to acknowledge ‘the loss we still feel’.

Horribly two-faced.


  • Britcellist says:

    Riding on the coat tails of a well known person is despicable at any time. It’s even worse when a person is in a vulnerable state as was Jackie.
    She is greatly missed by those who knew her, and should not be denigrated by some attention-seeking writer bent on making money at any opportunity. Let us have our own memories of Jackie, not those of a scandal monger.

    • erich says:

      Mendacious cow. Let’s hope that DB wades in and puts a stop to it.

      • Why should Barenboim interfere? In du Pré’s final years, he was having a passionate affair with another woman in France and they produced two children together. Barenboim was even proud of the fact that du Pré knew nothing about this episode.


        • Una Barry says:

          Let those without sin cast the first stone … we never know especially from newspapers like the Torygraph, an interview or not, the whole set of circumstances in anyone’s life.

        • Sue says:

          I never could stand that man; he gives me the creeps and he’s extremely oleaginous.

        • Anon says:

          Indeed. Twas the best kept secret in the profession.

        • La Verita says:

          AKH, you are one nasty piece of work. When one has a terminally disabled spouse – and thus loses all the obligations of that spouse – one has serious choices to make. Barenboim was consummately caring & respectful of his spouse until the very end, but he also sensibly chose to move on with his life – which as a human being he had every right to do. He handled his difficult situation with dignity. Yes, his new relationship was an open secret in the music world (it wasn’t a fling – he married her once he was widowed), but everyone (except you, evidently) understood the situation Barenboim was in and remained compassionately quite about it. And let’s not be as naïve as to think that Jackie “didn’t know” – any reasonable person in her position couldn’t expect her spouse to remain faithful. She simply chose not to discuss it.

          • I am deeply impressed by how eloquently you could justify infidelity, as if it were one of the most noble deeds of mankind. But could you please stop pretending to speak for “everyone”? C’mon, it’s just your own opinion and I’m totally OK with it.

          • I can’t quite understand your point actually. Could you please elaborate? Did you mean as soon as your spouse becomes seriously ill, you don’t have any obligations to her anymore and you can start messing up with other women and making children and then tell the world how much you still love your real spouse? If so, say it loud and clear so that everyone can hear.

          • There has been a long tradition of mourning the deceased spouse in various culture and times of human history, including the great Jewish tradition and teaching. The mourning period is a very sacred, holy time. It used to be considered scandalous for a widow to start dating before a year after a spouse dies. But now people seem to find it just perfectly OK to have children with other women even when his spouse is still alive. I am curious what these people would say if Barenboim was the terminally diseased one and du Pré had children out of wedlock.

            I don’t know what kind of vows and promises they exchanged with each other at their wedding ceremony. Probably he did answer “yes” to something like “Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live” ?

            A man should never be celebrated because of the fact that he doesn’t keep his word! That’s the bottom line.

        • M Helvetius says:

          One argument for judging not lest we be judged is that no outsider can really know the facts of any marriage or relationship. If Barenboim and du Pré had not had the misfortune of du Pré developing MS, Barenboim could easily have divorced her and received no more disapproval than divorce and remariage typically incurred at the end of the 20th century, when roughly half of couples were opting out of their marriage commitments. For all we know (and there is some suggestion to that effect), the mariage was already intolerable and Barenboim would otherwise have liked to split with du Pré. Once she was diagnosed, what would have been a regrettable but quite ordinary course of action become unseemly and much more hurful to du Pré. At least Barenboim was very commited to her wellbeing in many regards until her death.

          Those of us who have had the moral luck never to be required to stand by someone with an extremely protracted illness that precludes children and a normal family and social life are not well situated to judge someone who has not had similar luck.

      • Una Barry says:

        I hope so to, and concentrate on the goodness of people a bit more.

  • It’s the price of being famous. You aren’t so naive to expect that all people will worship you like God, right? You just can’t dictate the way how people read your life. Instead, everything in your life will eventually be exposed under the strictest scrutiny by the public. Even if you chose to live a hermit life, there will still be all kinds of rumors about you, which are sometimes even more harmful.

    Just take a look at one of those better researched musician biographies on the market. You can, for example, find out how did Robert Schumann shit on a certain weekend during his final days in the psychiatric hospital at Endenich. I am not joking, seriously. It was all professionally documented by his doctors and now these documents are edited and published by well-respected scholars.

    While I want to wish every aspiring musicians all the best in their career, I do strongly believe that it is our responsibility to make them aware of all the possible consequences, not just the applause and flower, they are going to have in this job.

    BTW, I could hardly accept the fact that Jan Younghusband is a woman. It makes my day:D Apart from the cool last name, how can Jan be a female first name???

    • Bruce says:

      In English, Jan is often short for Janet or Janice.

      • Una Barry says:

        Jan is certainly a very common female name in England and other parts of Britain. Not only short for names such as Janice, Janine and Janet, it is also a self-standing name and short for nothing.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Because she is English, not Polish, Czech, etc. Just like there is an English name Marian which is a feminine name, whereas there is also a Polish name Marian which is a masculine name.

    • OK, I see. Thank you guys for clarifying it.

      • Una Barry says:

        It’s okay. None of us expect to know everything! I had a singing teacher once in Germany called Jean Cox. HE was American and his name was pronounced as if it were Gene, not as the French Jean for John. But most certainly not a man with the common woman’s name, Jean also to rhyme with ‘seen’ as with Jean Cox.

  • May I ask what does “tacky and disingenuous” mean? I couldn’t find them in the dictionary. Thank you.

  • Richard Deroko says:

    I didn’t know this part of the story. Only adds to the incredible tragedy of her life, especially when included with her husband’s duplicity ! It is a plot that even Shakespeare would have turned down.

    • Sue says:

      Totally agree. And now that self-serving hypocrite pretends he cares about the Palestinians, when we know full well what he thought of his wife when she was ill!! He never learned that old maxim, “charity begins at home”. Grand-standing is his skill.

      • Cyril Blair says:

        So it’s not possible to care about the Palestinians unless you also never betrayed your spouse in any way? How do you rationalize that? We haven’t seen a perfect human since the days of Jesus. It is possible to exhibit moral greatness in some areas and feet of clay in others.

      • Stephen says:

        Your being completely unfair to Barenboim: he cared for Jacky to the last, flying from Paris every weekend and ensuring she was getting the best possible care. There are some other unfair attacks on the man: how many other musicians are prepared to stand up and be counted like him? Solti is the last musician whose boundaries extended beyond the podium.

        • Stephen says:

          Sorry: “You’re”.

        • I beg to disagree with you in this particular case, Stephen. I never said Barenboim is a bad person and musician or we ordinary mortals could deal with such cases in anyway better than him. However, you won’t have much credibility as an opinion leader and Moralapostel if you also make all those “normal” mistakes of ordinary people.

          According to your theory, church priests don’t have to follow the ten commandments either. They just have to know how to TEACH us, right? When they get caught, they just make some cheap excuses about common human weakness etc. Sadly, people seem to buy this stuffs so easily. I think that’s one of the reason why we can now find this kind of hypocrites nearly everywhere in the religion, the politics, and the art business.

          Please remember, even today Barenboim and du Pré are sold as the “golden couple” of classical music to millions of people. He is the one who still greatly benefits from this relationship. Your all-too-easy forgiveness to Barenboim is really unfair to du Pré, to say the least.

  • Guy Bebb says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht, it cannot come as a surprise to you that the lack lustre scrapings of the BBC talent bowl seek to immortalise poor Ms Du Pre whilst trying to make a penny or two on the side. I wil not insult you by mentioning the unfortunate characters by name. Let us instead take a look at a beetroot aging female chinless wonder skulking around Portland Place. Jackie is of course delighted, l am certain, that we continue to remember the person, not some latter day saint, who was just an incredible joy to be with. She walked by our windows for her cello lessons with Bill Pleath a few doors down from us. For me, she will always be a heck of a gal. Piers, Hillary and the BBC woman, whose name has escapes me, get a proper job!

  • John says:

    Didn’t Vaughan Williams have a years-long relationship with his second wife, Ursula while his first wife, Adeline, languished for years as an invalid before dying? I guess the SD guardians of morality might want to flog RVW before they move on.

    And of course there is Arnold Box who, while his wife wasn’t ill when he left her for Harriet Cohen, she did have two children with him who he also left behind. And then of course he left Harriet later on for another younger woman. So let’s dig him up while we’re at it and harp on about his choices, too.

    Best to leave Wagner out of the mix, though.


    • Guy Bebb says:

      John is quite right, Arnold Box, the famous not quite sure what he is famous for. As to VW l can state my oldest son is a trustee of the VW estate. Having read the unpublished papers, there is not one reason to accept the half baked assertions of the above individual.

    • This is not the John we all knew! Glad to know you, again.

    • Sue says:

      Were these same composers also very public compassionistas and bien pensant?

    • Ron Keillor says:

      Arnold BAX, not BOX

    • Darth Rayne says:

      “Arnold Box” LOL. A cricketer? That apparatus might have been a hindrance in his extramarital affairs. Seems like musicians put it about a lot…..

    • James says:

      Then there was the one and only Igor Stravinsky, who, as his first wife and mother of his children was dying in a sanitorium in S France, was whooping it up in Paris with the dread
      Vera, who became his 2d wife. His children thought rather the less of him for it.

      Also, Prokofiev, whooping it up with his 2d wife as first wife and mother of his children
      rotted in the GULAG.

      And Leonard Bernstein going public with his homosexual slaverings as his wife lay dying.

      Nice people…doing nice things.

  • Robin Worth says:

    Surely the only point worth making is that both Barenboim and his first wife were (are) great musicians and that he deserves credit for doing something to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians?

    All the rest is just noise

    • Buxtehude says:

      Agree, adding only that Jackie was way beyond great and it’s a pity that the salacious noise may interfere with future liosteners hearing her plain.

      • Stephen says:

        The book with its “revelations” came out 20 years ago and has never harmed her reputation.

        • Buxtehude says:

          For people knowing classical performance — I suppose you’re right. It’s another story for those on the outside, who we’d love to come join us.

          Movies can have a broad reach and a long life and this one has exceptionally high approval ratings on the review sites. For these many thousands of amateur critics, it’s the weirdness that attaches to her name instead of the promise of miraculous music.

          Another reason NL’s outrage is appropriate.

  • esfir ross says:

    Daniel Barenboim couldn’t divorce J.du Pre-she converted in Judaism and it was religious marriage. In the movie “Hillary and Jacky” she’s showed as impossible person, unfortunately. Hillary, her sister cash on her sister and told it all. Look, like nobody remember this well acted movie.