I don't know much about classical music, but I can hear that cellist Jacqueline du Pré was different. She was kind of like Jimmy Page. She could play all the notes and make them sound pretty, but she understood that sometimes, when you were feeling the music in your blood and your bile and your sex and your soul, it didn't matter whether or not the notes all sounded pretty. She understood that sometimes, the notes are the least important part of music.
In my book, that means Jacqueline du Pré understood what it means to rock. And in my book, that makes her worth listening to.
The first track (Dvorák's "Cello Concerto in B minor") and the last track (Franck's "Sonata in A") are good starting points. The symphonic Dvorák piece is big and dark and dramatic, and du Pré's cello solo is fiery and passionate. The Franck piece is just her and her husband, pianist Daniel Barenboim. It sounds like a journey through a difficult relationship, and the performances make me wonder what went on in the private lives of these two very talented people.
Oh, and when you're listening to this, listen loud. Forget about that mentality that says classical music should be in the background of some hoity-toity bookstore or café. No, turn the volume up on this one, turn it as high as you can handle it, and immerse yourself in the music. Then and only then should you decide whether or not this is any good.
The liner notes prove that there was at least one completely incompetent graphic designer working at EMI in 1996. If you can get past the ugly colors, difficult typefaces, and useless layout, you'll be rewarded with a minuscule bit of substance.
Listen if you like: Jimmy Page, but are open-minded enough to appreciate something different; classical music, but aren't married to the notion that technical proficiency equates soul.
If it were food, it'd be: I used to eat at this fancy little restaurant in New York. The guy who ran it was a world-renowned chef, but he also happened to be a hard-drinking biker who would scare the living bejeezus out of anyone who mouthed off to his waitresses. du Pré's music reminds me of his food; it's beautiful, but its heart and soul and bicep are never afraid to make an unannounced appearance.