Rare performance of Jacqueline Du Pre’s Dvorak Cello Concerto from 1968 on BBC iPlayer

A chance find on BBC iPlayer this afternoon: a rare recording from 1968 of Jacqueline du Pre playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto with an all-male London Symphony Orchestra (it was a different time, clearly) conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Royal Albert Hall.

It is a remarkable performance. Jacqueline du Pre is ravishing performer – the sight of her fingers effortlessly crawling all over the fingerboard sends a tingle down my spine. Spirited, defiant, and strong.

There are moments in the first movement (particularly in the last section) when you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard not to be moved by the heart-breaking emotion. The work’s melancholy – far weightier than the concerto by Elgar that helped establish the performer’s reputation – needs to be approached with caution.

That same emotion is accessed during the last movement – a stunning achievement given the false start brought about by a string that breaks just as the solo line begins.

That a piece of black and white footage captured nearly 50 years ago can bring about moist eyes on a Tuesday lunchtime says something about the performer (and the work).

Such a shame that I discovered the rare unearthed footage by accident.

The streaming service didn’t include it on its ‘Featured’ tab on the Sky interface. Both the performance and a repeat of an hour-long documentary featuring personal recollections of the performer was buried on the second page of its music category page too.

Obviously I’m biased, but such a rarity is worthy of greater exposure, especially if the BBC needs to demonstrate its commitment to televising classical music outside of its own summer-long music festival.

I’d have expected to see it featured on a homepage – be it on the BBC iPlayer interface on Sky, the BBC iPlayer app on Connected TV or on my mobile. Also, you’ve got me to login now so you should know my preferences and be able to serve them up accordingly, surely.

Disappointing.

There’s truth in what people are saying (not so much mumbling as saying out loud whenever I go to events) that the BBC doesn’t really get the arts – at least not on television. Televised classical music of the kind Humphrey Burton captured in Du Pre’s ’68 performance is lost on the present-day Corporation. That’s why it’s more difficult to find.

Streaming makes it possible to distribute more content to an ever-more fragmented audience. But it needs to be made more discoverable. That’s not database scripting or website code, it’s someone having a conversation with someone else.

I imagine it’s left to the lovers of the genre to keep banging the drum and drawing people’s attention to the content. The irony now is that I’m not being paid to do so.

 

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