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Prodigal. Dark. Incandescent: A short chronicle of the life of an English cellist.

When Jacqueline du Pré was four years old, she heard a pleasing sound on the radio. She later explained, “I liked it so much that I asked my mother to get me the thing that made that sound.” Without hesitation, Iris du Pré bought her daughter a full-size cello, one so large that Jackie had to stand and wrap her arms around the instrument’s body to play it.

Most biographies of musical prodigies begin with such precocious anecdotes. These would be forgettable stories were they not, in hindsight, early evidence of artistic genius—if, for example, Jacqueline hadn’t become one of the greatest cellists in the world, .

  • Words:
    Suzanne Snider
  • Photography:
    Brian Seed / Lebrecht

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  • Words:
    Suzanne Snider
  • Photography:
    Brian Seed / Lebrecht
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