I encountered Jacqueline du Pre’s recorded performance of the Elgar Concerto in 1965 when I was 23 and she was 20. I have to admit that in the shop in lower Manhattan I was drawn to her photograph on the album because she resembled the very first girl I fell madly in love with in high school. I was curious to hear what a mere GIRL could do with such an important piece of music, written of course by a virle, powerful MAN.
Her Elgar was indescribably wonderful. Full of nuance, and a succession of harmonic contrasts, and expressive power in the softest of passages. I was totally blown away. This wasn’t an innocent child, no, she was a musical genius who ranked with cellists Pablo Casals, and that intense Russian, Mistislav Rostropovich.
Plus Jacqueline was so utterly HOT, and I imagined myself giving tribute to her transcendent artistry by covering her beautiful face and breasts and cunt with kisses, hundreds of adoring kisses, and then gently entering her and slowly bringing the both of us to blinding orgasms. I imagined myself making love to her all night long, and then again the next night, and again and again for as long as we lived.
In the same store a few weeks afterward, my eye caught the album Diabelli Variations, by Daniel Berenboim. I took it to my apartment on West 83rd Street, and, as with Jacqueline’s Elgar, I was stunned, taken completely by surprise.
No question that Berenboim at the impossible age of 23 understood exactly what drove Beethoven to these profound melodic complexities, superior even to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Beethoven intended it as a gift for the great love of his life, his Immortal Beloved, Antonie Brentano. Now, Antonie was a virtuoso pianist herself, and she was a superb sight reader, and I imagined her flipping the pages of that handwritten score, and instantly understanding what Ludwig had just given her.
Two years later I read in The New York Times news that profoundly disturbed me. I had to read it twice, three times, because I didn’t want to believe it.
My darling, sweet precious Jacqueline had just married Daniel! In Israel!
I fell into the dark depths of a severe cognitive dissonance. Yes, young Daniel was unquestionably among the greatest pianists alive, and he brought Beethoven to life for me in a way that no other musician ever could. But god damn it to hell I could not see him with MY girl Jacqueline.
No, that marriage near the wailing wall was just not right.
I remember re-reading that Times article as I walked down Madison Avenue, shaking my head. No, no, no, NO. I went into an Irish bar, and ordered a double vodka martini on the rocks with a twist. I gulped it down, and ordered another.
Oh, Jacqueline! Oh, Jacqueline!
I bent my head over my squat glass and wept.