Jacqueline du Pré and I were engaged to play a concert together in April 1967 with the English Chamber Orchestra, but we first met in December 1966, at the house of Fou Ts'ong, the Chinese pianist who was married at the time t Menuhin's daughter. We were all to spend the evening playing chamber music together. Jacqueine and I were drawn immediately to each other, both in a personal and a musical sense. About two or three months later we decided to marry. She was already by then studying Judaism, because she intended to convert to my religion. I did not influence her at all; she wanted to do it, partly for me, but also because at that time we hoped to have children. It may also have been because so many of the great musicians she knew were Jewish, and she wanted to share this experience.
David Ben-Gurion attended our wedding in June 1967, and he was photographed with Jacqueline and myself. Though he did not really care about music, he was a great admirer of hers. There was also the special significance of an English girl, and a Gentile at that, who had come to Israel in 1967 when the country was at war. She became a sort of a symbol in Israel, and Ben-Gurion was very aware of that.
A few weeks after we had met I remember playing a recording to Jacqueline of the Prelude and 'Liebestod' from Tristan und Isolde. She had never heard a note of Wagner before but, when she listened to something for the first time, it immediately became part of her. Whatever I showed her, or whatever she heard, seemed to bring out something that was already in her. She had a horror of anything that was fake, or insincere, of anything artificial. She had a gift very few performers have, the gift of making you feel that she was actually composing the music as she was playing. She did not know what it was to have technical difficulties, nor what it meant to play safe. There was a sensation of pure abandon when she played and it was that quality that endeared her to her colleagues and to her audience. There was something in her playing that was so completely and inevitably right - as far as tempo and dynamics were concerned. She played with a great deal of rubato, with great freedom, but it was so convincing that you felt like a mere mortal faced with somebody who possessed some kind of ethereal dimension.
Musically speaking, she was something of a rebel - she had her own brand of obstinacy. There was something deep inside her that revolted against the obvious, the accustomed or the conventional. Yet, it was not just her personality or her charisma, but the intensity of her feeling that made you wonder if there could be, after all, some valid reason for changing the printed score! With other musicians one would have felt that such a reaction was wilful or capricious, but there was nothing wilful or capricious about Jacqueline's music making.
She was an extremely kind person who could be quite hard in her judgment of other musicians when it concerned lack of commitment or intensity, or what was considered lack of honesty. Anyone who was not willing to give all of himself was a dishonesty person. Even as young girl of fifteen or sixteen, when attending Pablo Casals's master classes in Zermatt, she was already quite a rebel. Then she went to Moscow for a few months to study with Mstislav Rostropovich, and was quite a bit of a rebel there too. She also studied with Paul Tortelier for a few months. She did not accept authority automatically - it had to be proved to her that there was a reason for it. She was a rebel but also naive in the sense that she had a directness, and instinctive, almost physical contact with music. Those are the traits that remain in my memories of her as a musicians.
In those days it was much simpler to make recordings, and there was only one other cellist of Jacqueline's caliber - Tortelier. The other cellist who caught the public's imagination was, of course, Rostropovich, but he was in the Soviet Union and only sporadically came to the West. There was certainly no other cellist of her generation and she therefore had practically no competition.
The first recording we made together was in 1967, when she played the Haydn C major and Boccherini cello concertos. In 1970 she wanted to record the Dvorak Concerto with me and we thought of doing it in Chicago because it had such a wonderful orchestra and because she had played with them before. She also made a record of the Chopin and Cesar Franck sonatas, and another of the Tchaikovsky Trio, live from Tel Aviv, but by then there were already periods when she was unable to play. She had such a very short time.
Jacqueline's way of playing did not really change from the time she was a teenager - you can hear that on some of her very early recordings, which were released after her death. Even then, she played with incredible intensity and vivacity. Obviously she continued to develop, but the basic personality and character of her cello playing was established at a very early age. Of all the great musicians I have met in my life, I have never encountered anyone for whom music was such a natural form of expression as it was for Jacqueline. With most musicians you feel that they are human beings who happen to play music. With her, you had the feeling that here was a musician who also happened to be a human being. Of course, one had to eat and drink and sleep and have friends. But with her the proportions were different - music was the center of her existence.
Until her illness began to cripple her, she was able to do whatever she wanted on the cello, and needed very little practice. She had a capacity to imagine sound such as I never met in any other musician. She was really a child of nature - a musician of nature with an unerring instinct.