Jacqueline du Pré was born in Oxford, England, in 1945, to a concert pianist mother, Iris (Greep) du Pré and an accountant-editor-teacher father, Derek. Iris, who taught at the Royal Academy of Music in London, turned music into play in the household. At first it was only the mother playing the piano and singing, and then the girls joined in, Hillary with her flute and Jackie with her cello, which she picked up at the age of five, after listening to cello music on the radio. (Allegedly, she exclaimed, “Mummy, I want to make that sound!”)
At eight, Jackie went on to study with William Pleeth. In 1956 she won the Suggia Prize and after that she focused on her cello playing, at the expense of everything else: school, relationships, a normal life. At fifteen she took master classes with Pablo Casals and at sixteen she was ready for her début, with a Stradivarius, in Wigmore Hall in London. It was followed by a performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra a year later. It was then she played Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, which in the years to come made her famous in the world of classical music.
After a period of doubting her path in life, Jacqueline du Pré embarked on her career in earnest. In 1965, her performance at Carnegie Hall created a sensation, and her EMI recording of the Elgar concerto -- with London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli -- created a legend.