Charismatic conductor, composer and also pianist renowned as one of the most versatile musicians of his generation


André Previn conducting his phase musical The Good Companions in 1974. Photograph: Ben Martin/Getty Images
André Previn conducting his phase musical The Good Companions in 1974. Photograph: Ben Martin/Getty Images

The conductor, composer and pianist André Previn, that has actually died aged 89, was not only among the the majority of charismatic performers of his day, however likewise appreciated among the greatest classical-music stays given that Berlioz and Liszt – and one that did not flourish less eventful through old age. His pedigree was unique: no various other Oscar-winning conductor-composer from the Hollytimber film studios became equally effective in the strictly classical people of the London Symphony Orchestra – which Previn headed from 1968 to 1979 – while also maintaining a side career as a jazz pianist.

As a composer, his successes were singular in their range: from film scores such as that for the Oscar-nominated Elmer Gantry (1960) to stage musicals for the West End (The Good Companions, 1974) and also Broadmethod (Coco, 1970) that were additionally hits. Later, he returned to creating after a dormant decade through a succession of song cycles, concertos and two major operas, A Streetauto Named Desire (1998) and also Brief Encounter (2009), often in a style reaching earlier to his pre-second civilization battle training in his indigenous Berlin.

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His adult years were separated in between the east and west shores of the US, and also the UK, wright here he delighted in specific celebrity standing and got an honorary knighthood in 1996. “Those of you who think that being a conductor is a sequence of limousines and mistresses – it isn’t. It’s being some area not long enough to have actually your laundry done and having actually to work it out,” Previn sassist in the Tony Palmer documentary film The Kindness of Strangers (1998). He regularly headed 2 orchestras all at once in sepaprice continents, yet whatever before nation he was in, he was a very visible, celebrated presence, regularly hailed as the brand-new guard of timeless music – his humour, accessibility and also articulate observational sense demystified his profession – even though his manner of music-making was mainstream, also conservative. Though critics thought about Previn a middleweight talent throughout his London Symphony Orchestra years, his broadcast-friendly characteristics broadened the orchestra’s audience via the TV present André Previn’s Music Night (1971-72), and, even more indirectly, with the comic change ego Anattracted Pevaluation he created via Eric Morecambe and also Ernie Wise. In the US, he lugged the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to unprecedented national attention throughout his 1976-84 tenure many thanks to the TV series Previn and the Pittsburgh (1977-80).

The child of Charlotte (nee Epstein) and Jacob Priwin, he was born Andreas Ludwig Priwin in Berlin, where his father was a successful lawyer. He got an old-human being musical education and spent many type of evenings playing Beethoven symphonies in piano reductions via his father, that emoved in 1939 via his household first to Paris and also then to Los Angeles, which had come to be a haven for numerous talented Germale Jewish family members fleeing the Nazi routine. The young Previn claimed to have actually learned English from viewing Hollylumber films consistently. By the age of 16, he was shuttling from Beverly Hills high institution to the film studios, wbelow he functioned as an arranger and also, later on, a composer.

Previn’s first publicly perdeveloped composition was a water ballet in the 1948 Esther Williams musical On An Island also With You. His initially complete score was for a bizarre combination of stars – the dog Lassie and the soprano Jeanette MacDonald – in the film The Sun Comes Up (1949). Unprefer young concert performers who take a year or two off their age, Previn added a year. While still a young man, he increased to the height of his profession, functioning on the most prestigious MGM musicals, though, as recorded in his witty memoir of that duration, No Minor Chords (1992), the job description sometimes extended well past music. While functioning on the now-classical Gigi (1958), he had to chase about France, where the film was being shot, to discover a babsence swan demanded by the temperamental director Vincente Minnelli, only to be told his swan was not babsence enough. He won Oscars for his work on Gigi, Porgy and also Bess (1959), Irma La Douce (1963) and also My Fair Lady (1964).

During this time, Previn’s fascination via jazz led him to transcribe the key-board improvisations of Art Tatum, note for note. The talent for improvisation that he arisen from tbelow took him in a variety of various directions, from spare, serious jazz trio records to even more homogenised easy-listening albums. His improvisational extravagance is specifically evident in the outtakes from his participation with Doris Day, an album entitled Duet (1962).

Previn’s break with Hollylumber was not as clear and also decisive as he often defined. His formal conducting dehowever is primarily collection at 1963 through the St Louis Symphony, shortly followed by his first appointment, as music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, a post he hosted from 1967 to 1969. However before, Previn continued to have actually film credits, consisting of Rollersphere (1975), and also his job-related in the time of those years has actually a combination of high visibility and also shocking unevenness – coinciding with the industry-wide decline of the film musical.


André Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. He was its musical director from 1968 to 1979. Photograph: John Minihan/Getty ImagesThe famous however downindustry Valley of the Dolls (1967), for instance, reflects Previn and his second wife, the singer-songwriter Dory, at their best through the film’s lovely theme song, Theme to Valley of the Dolls, sung by Dionne Warwick. But Judy Garland also rebelled versus the clichéd I’ll Plant My Own Tree – which contributed to her departure from the film. In later years, Previn can only explain some of these embarrassing initiatives by pleading youthful ignorance: he was doing the best through what he kbrand-new.

Subsequent to his Hollyhardwood years, his major compositional effort was a cooperation via the playwideal Tom Stoppard, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1977), which has appreciated a secure stream of semi-staged concert performances with symphony orchestra given that its premiere, including a 2009 National Theatre rebirth.

For years, Previn was known just as a conductor, his London Symphony Orchestra tenure establishing the tone for his international reputation in later on years as “a first-rate conductor of second-rate music” (according to the doubter Martin Bernheimer). His strongly score-based interpretive stance stemmed from a seminal moment he had actually at an early stage on: he obtained negative news simply prior to going onstage and also poured his sorrow right into the symphony at hand, just to be told thereafter that the performance was interpretively incoherent. Thus, his music making had emotional dignity in his previously years, yet frequently a much less satisfying sobriety in later on ones.

His London Symphony recordings are frequently his finest, and also they are countless, thanks to such a congenial connection with EMI that he can phone the agency to say that a particular concert was shaping up unusually well, and also have actually a recording team on hand by the finish of the week. He championed composers that non-British conductors would certainly not touch at that time, such as Vaughan Williams and also William Walton. His hallnote was Russian repertoire: Previn’s discography had more than 250 discs of Prokofiev, and also even more than 100 each by Tchaikovskies and also Rachmaninov. Most crucial was the initially recording of the unreduced variation of the Rachmaninov Symphony No 2 in the beforehand 1970s: it lugged brand-new respect for the symphony, prompting a positive re-testimonial of the composer’s music at large over the complying with years.

Previn’s Pittsburgh tenure established further credentials in the French collection, and not simply Debussy and also Ravel. He went with an intensive period conducting Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie in the late 1970s, and is thought about to have actually significantly aided its circulation, even though the then radical piece was booed in Pittsburgh.

As time went on via the Royal Philharmonic (wright here he was major conductor and chief conductor, 1985-92) critics started noticing a lack of fire in both performances and also recordings. Previn’s succeeding return to the US west coastline to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic, beginning in 1985 – which could have been the summit of his conducting career – ended in his stormy resigcountry in 1989. The orchestra’s basic manager, Ernest Fleischmann, that was used to operating independently, offered a Japanese tour to the then little-well-known Esa-Pekka Salonen without consulting Previn – one of a number of slights that left the conductor categorically refusing to go back to the orchestra, also with various monitoring, as a guest.


André Previn with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise on the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas display. Photograph: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/AlamyThough he had actually momentary relationships as a guest conductor, Previn’s regular visits to the Vienna Philharmonic were more artistically essential, developing him as a Mozart/Strauss specialist, doubling as soloist and also conductor in a Mozart piano concerto followed by a Strauss tone poem. Even later on, he ended up being a Bruckner specialist. One of his finest, and also most overlooked, recording tasks was a vigorous, insightful complete Beethrange symphony cycle through the Royal Philharmonic from the at an early stage 1990s.

Previn frequently took his pianistic abilities for granted, yet they were prized in many kind of circles, not so much for technological prowess as for the method his fingers revealed interpretive insights through excellent precision and also specificity. His earlier recordings were contained in the famed Philips-label Great Pianists of the 20th Century series. A few of his ideal later-in-life performances were in a piano trio he created via the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (his fifth wife) and the cellist Daniel Müller-Schott. Among his many irreverent anecdotes – tbelow were many – was one about a performance of the Beethoven Triple Concerto in which he was the classical-minded piano soloist, Mstislav Rostropovich was the arch-romantic cellist and also Yehudi Menuhin was the technically distressed violinist. As Previn recounted to BBC Music Magazine, the conductor, Leonard Bernstein, was appalled at exactly how badly it all came out, while Menuhin asserted to have actually experienced something sublime.


From left, Trevor Nunn, Tom Stoppard and also André Previn at the Mermassist theatre, London, for the play Eexceptionally Good Boy Deserves Favour. Photograph: Donald Cooper/Rex FeaturesAs a composer, he damaged his silence in 1985 with a piano concerto written for Vladimir Ashkenazy, complied with by a collection of song cycles, consisting of a teamwork with Toni Morrichild, Honey and also Rue, for Kathleen Battle in 1992. Soon, he was prolific, creating songs, chamber music and also all manner of orchestral works. But despite notable success as a composer for opera via A Streetcar Named Desire and also Brief Encounter, he likewise endured setbacks: he lost battles for the civil liberties to the Alessandro Baricco novel Silk and also the play A Man for All Seasons. Among his orchestral functions, his Violin Concerto “Anne-Sophie” is among his a lot of successful, the recording of which won a Grammy award in 2004, among a full of 10; in 2010 he obtained a life time achievement award.

Previn showed up to regard his creating life casually. “There’s a certain amount of self-defense in that,” he once described. “I have most commissions and also it surprises me a good deal. I incredibly frequently execute not like what I write. People prefer to play it, yet the doubters say, ‘What a load of crap!’ It’s hard for me to cope via.”

Yet composing was his good joy near the finish – something that he can do without any buffer zone from his guest conducting, and while waiting for a flight in airports, which he frequently joked was the the majority of frequent residence for this guy without a country. His works had actually deceptive sophistication. Though they were mostly agreeable in a post-Strauss, neo-Korngold fashion, functions such as his Harp Concerto are strangely enigmatic in their collage of contrasting musical occasions, implying a deep interpretation for him.


André Previn in 1977 performing on the piano while conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Mozart’s Piano Concert No 20 in D minor, for a tv show, Previn and the Pittsburgh. Photograph: Bettmann ArchiveQuite exceptional was his 80th year: though he was so infirm that he had actually good challenge walking on and off stage to take a bow, he finished a Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra for Mutter and Yuri Bashmet, and also unveiled 2 impressive concert functions created the previous year – the Harp Concerto for Xavier de Maistre and an orchestral occupational entitled Owls, for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He additionally revised sections of his Short Enrespond to opera in between guest conducting engagements in Philadelphia and also Boston.

Previn composed prolifically until the end of his life, including a yet to be performed Concerto for Orchestra for the Dresden Staatskapelle and also a monodrama via a Stoppard libretto for Renée Fleming on the topic of Penelope (Ulysses’ wife) that is because of be premiered this summer at Tangletimber. “A day without music is a day wasted,” he said in 2017.

Previn was married and also divorced 5 times. With his first wife, Betty Bennett, a singer, he had two daughters, Claudia and also Alicia (likewise known as Lovely). He and Dory separated after his affair through the actor Mia Farrowhead, whom he married in 1970. Together they had actually 6 youngsters, Matthew, Sascha, Fletcher, Summer (also well-known as Daisy), Lark and Soon-Yi. In 1982 he married Heather Sneddon, and also they had a boy, Lukas, and a daughter, Li-An. Though the stated reasons for his 2006 divorce from Mutter, whom he married in 2002, were vague, it is clear that Previn suffered substantial grief at the end of the union. He referred to Mutter as “my very finest friend” and sassist that they spoke eincredibly day on the phone. Previn explained their partnership as “the divorce that didn’t work”.

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Previn is endured by nine of his children. His daughter Lark passed away in 2008.

André George Previn (Andreas Ludwig Priwin), pianist, conductor and also composer, born 6 April 1929; died 28 February 2019