Previn, André (George) (real name, Andreas Ludwig Priwin)
Previn, André (George) (real name, Andreas Ludwig Priwin)
Previn, André (George) (real name, Andreas Ludwig Priwin) , brilliant German-born American pianist, conductor, and composer; b. Berlin, April 6, 1929. He was of Russian-Jewish descent. He showed an unmistakable musical gift as a child; his father, a lawyer, was an amateur musician who gave him his early training; they played piano, 4-hands, together at home. At the age of 6, he was accepted as a pupil at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, where he studied piano with Breithaupt; as a Jew, however, he was compelled to leave school in 1938. The family then went to Paris, where he continued his studies at the Cons., Dupré being one of his teachers. In 1939 the family emigrated to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles, where his father’s cousin, Charles Previn, was music director at Universal Studios in Hollywood. He took lessons in composition with Joseph Achron, Toch, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1943. Even before graduating from high school, he obtained employment at MGM, becoming an orchestrator there and later one of its music directors; he also became a fine jazz pianist. He served in the U.S. Army (1950–52). While stationed in San Francisco, he took lessons in conducting with Monteux, then music director of the San Francisco Sym. During these years, he wrote much music for films and received Academy Awards for his arrangements of Gigi (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), Irma la Douce (1963), and My Fair Lady (1964). Throughout this period he continued to appear as a concert pianist. In 1962 he made his formal conducting debut with the St. Louis Sym. Orch., and conducting soon became his principal vocation. From 1967 to 1969 he was conductor-in-chief of the Houston Sym. Orch. In 1968 he assumed the post of principal conductor of the London Sym. Orch., retaining it with distinction until 1979. In 1993 he was named its Conductor Laureate. In 1976 he became music director of the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch., a position he held with similar distinction until a dispute with the management led to his resignation in 1984. He had already been engaged as music director of the Royal Phil, of London in 1982, a position he held from 1985 to 1987. He then served as its principal conductor from 1987 to 1992, and thereafter was its Conductor Laureate. Previn also accepted appointment as music director of the Los Angeles Phil., after resigning his Pittsburgh position; he formally assumed his duties in Los Angeles in 1985, but gave up this position in 1990 after disagreements with the management over administrative procedures. During his years as a conductor of the London Sym. Orch., he took it on a number of tours to the U.S., as well as to Russia, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. He also took the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch. on acclaimed tours of Europe in 1978 and 1982. While continuing to make regular appearances as a guest conductor with the world’s leading orchs., he also continued to compose. His song cycle, Honey and Rue (N.Y., Jan. 5, 1992, Kathleen Battle soloist, composer conducting), became his most widely performed score. On Sept. 19, 1998, he conducted the premiere of his opera A Streetcar Named Desire, after Tennessee Williams, at the San Francisco Opera. Previn received an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II of England in 1996, and in 1999 he was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He ed. the book Orchestra (Garden City, N.Y., 1979), and also publ. André Previn’s Guide to Music (London, 1983) and the autobiographical No Minor Chords: My Days in Hollywood (N.Y., 1991). He was married four times (and divorced thrice): to the jazz singer Betty Bennett, to the jazz poet Dory Langdon (who made a career of her own as composer and singer of pop songs), to the actress Mia Farrow, and in 1982 to Heather Hales.
DRAMATIC : Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, play for Actors and Orch. (1976); A Streetcar Named Desire, opera after Tennessee Williams (San Francisco, Sept. 19, 1998, composer conducting); various film scores. ORCH.: Cello Concerto (1960); Guitar Concerto (1971); Principals (Pittsburgh, Sept. 12, 1980, composer conducting); Reflections (Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 13, 1981); Piano Concerto (Nottingham, June 16, 1985, Vladimir Ashkenazy soloist, composer conducting). CHAMBER : 2 Little Serenades for Violin and Piano (1970); 4 Outings for Horn, 2 Trumpets, Trombone, and Tuba (London, Aug. 1974); Peaches for Flute and Piano (1978); Triolet for Horn, 4 Trumpets, 4 Trombones, and Tuba (1985); A Wedding Waltz for 2 Oboes and Piano (1986); Cello Sonata (Amsterdam, March 28, 1993); Trio for Piano, Oboe, and Bassoon (1994; N.Y., Jan. 31, 1996); Violin Sonata, Vineyard (1994; Katonah, N.Y., July 14, 1996); Hoch soll er Leben for Horn, 2 Trumpets, Trombone, and Tuba (N.Y., July 18, 1997); Bassoon Sonata (1997; N.Y., April 25, 1999); Tango, Song, and Dance for Violin and Piano (1998). Piano : Paraphrase on a Theme of William Walton (1973); The Invisible Drummer (1974); Pages from My Calendar (1974); Matthew’s Piano Book (1979); Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1990). VOCAL : 5 Songs for Mezzo-soprano and Piano, after Philip Larkin (1977); Honey and Rue, song cycle for Soprano and Orch., after Toni Morrison (1991; N.Y., Jan. 5, 1992, Kathleen Battle, soloist, composer conducting); Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid for Soprano and Piano (Lenox, Mass., Aug. 24, 1994; also for Soprano and Orch., 1995; Boston, March 21, 1996); 4 Songs for Soprano, Cello, and Piano, after Toni Morisson (N.Y., Nov. 27, 1994); Vocalise for Soprano, Cello, and Orch. (1995; Boston, March 21, 1996); 2 Remembrances for Soprano, Alto Flute, and Piano (1995; Lenox, Mass., July 16, 1996); The Magic Number for Soprano and Orch. (1995; N.Y., April 17, 1997).
E. Greenfield, A. P. (N.Y., 1973); M. Bookspan and R. Yockey, A. P.: A Biography (Garden City, N.Y., 1981); H. Ruttencutter, P. (London, 1985).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Lewis Porter