Andre Previn Bio
André George Previn, born Andreas Ludwig Priwin; April 6, 1929 – February 28, 2019) was a German-American pianist, conductor, and composer. Previn won four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings (and one more for his Lifetime Achievement).
Andreas Ludwig Priwin
April 6, 1929
|Died||February 28, 2019 (aged 89)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
André George Previn Early life
Previn was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Charlotte (née Epstein; Frankfurt 1891 – 1986) and Jack Previn (Jakob Priwin; Graudenz 1885 – 1963), who was a lawyer, judge, and music teacher. He is said to have been “a distant relative of” the composer Gustav Mahler. However, in a pre-concert public interview at Lincoln Center, in May 2012, Previn laughed at the suggestion that he was related to Mahler. The year of his birth is uncertain. Whereas most published reports give 1929, Previn himself stated that 1930 was his birth year.
In 1938, his Jewish family left Berlin and via Paris sailed to New York on October 20 and from there to Los Angeles on November 26. His father’s second cousin Charles Previn, was music director for Universal. André grew up in Los Angeles and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943. At Previn’s 1946 graduation from Beverly Hills High School he played a musical duet with Richard M. Sherman; Previn played the piano, accompanying Sherman (who played flute). Coincidentally, both composers won 1964 Oscars for different films, both winning in musical categories.
In 1951 and 1952, while stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco during his military service, Previn took private conducting lessons from Pierre Monteux, which he valued highly.
At the Hollywood studios
Previn came to prominence by arranging and composing Hollywood film scores first working for MGM when he was still in high school in 1946 having been noticed by the studio’s music department for his work with a local radio program. The film studios, he said in 2005, “were always looking for somebody who was talented, fast and cheap and, because I was a kid, I was all three. So they hired me to do piecework and I evidently did it very well. At 18 he became a composer-conductor for the studio. His first official credit was for an entry in the Lassie series, The Sun Comes Up (1949), which much later he thought was “the most inept score you ever heard” after seeing a television rerun.
Previn remained with MGM for a decade and a half but resigned in his early 30s. He told Emma Brockes of The Guardian in 2008: “At MGM you knew you were going to be working next year, you knew you were going to get paid. But I was too ambitious musically to settle for it. And I wanted to gamble with whatever talent I might have had.”
His break with the film world in the 1960s was not as straightforward as he often tried to claim in later life. His film work continued until Rollerball (1975). Over his entire film career, Previn was involved in the music for over 50 movies as composer, conductor or performer.
André George Previn Career in classical music
In 1967, Previn succeeded Sir John Barbirolli as music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In 1968, he began his tenure as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra(LSO), serving in that post until 1979. During his LSO tenure, he and the LSO appeared on the BBC Television programme André Previn’s Music Night. However, during his period with the LSO, according to the music critic Martin Bernheimer, Previn gained the reputation of being “a first-rate conductor of second-rate music.”
From 1976 to 1984, he was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and, in turn, had another television series with the PSO entitled Previn and the Pittsburgh. He was also principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 1988.
In 1985, he became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Although Previn’s tenure with the orchestra was deemed satisfactory from a professional perspective, other conductors, including Kurt Sanderling, Simon Rattle, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, did a better job at selling out concerts. Previn clashed frequently with Ernest Fleischmann (the LAPO’s Executive VP and General Manager), including the dispute when Fleischmann failed to consult Previn before naming Salonen as Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra, complete with a tour of Japan. As a result of Previn’s objections, Salonen’s title and Japanese tour were withdrawn; however, shortly thereafter, in April 1989, Previn resigned. Four months later, Salonen was named Music Director Designate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, officially taking the post of Music Director in October 1992.
André George Previn Television Carrer
Previn also enjoyed a long relationship with the medium of television, featuring in Meet André Previn (1969) on London Weekend Television, the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1971 and 1972 (BBC), André Previn’s Music Night (conducting the London Symphony Orchestra—three programmes in 1973, others in 1975 and 1976), television interviews with other artists, appearances on Call My Bluff, and participation in documentaries about popular music and jazz during the 1970s and 1980s. Previn became known to a broad public through his television work. In the United Kingdom he worked on TV with the London Symphony Orchestra. In the U.S. the television program “Previn and the Pittsburgh” (1977) featured him in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Previn is particularly remembered in Britain for his performance as “Mr. Andrew Preview” (or “Privet”) on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1971, which involved his conducting a performance of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Eric Morecambe as the comically inept soloist (being swindled into it by being told that Yehudi Menuhin would be his solo violinist). “Preview” then remarks that “I’ll go fetch my baton. It’s in Chicago.” This comic ad-lib made Morecambe immediately realise the sketch would be a success. Later in the sketch “Mr Preview” accuses Morecambe of playing all the wrong notes; Morecambe retorts that he has been playing “all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”. Because of other commitments the only time available for Previn to learn his part in the show was during a transatlantic flight but the talent he showed for comedy won high praise from his co-performers. He made a second appearance in their eighth series. In the sketch, he is tricked into visiting the pair again, and they suggest that if he works with them again, he could receive a knighthood. He conducted a 1920s-style dance band as the pair sang, then joined them at the end of the episode in singing Bring Me Sunshine. Previn also appeared in the 1972 Christmas Show, bemoaning the apparent consequences of his 1971 appearance: the only conducting work he now gets is on a London bus.
At a concert he conducted with the Grieg Concerto included in the program in Britain, Previn had to pause the playing to allow the audience time to stop giggling as they remembered the sketch. Previn himself recalled in 2005 that people in Britain still recall the sketch years later: “Taxi drivers still call me Mr Preview”.
André George Previn Personal life and Family
Previn was married five times. His first marriage, in 1952, was to jazz singer Betty Bennett, with whom he had two daughters, Claudia Previn Stasny and Alicia Previn (a violinist for the Irish band In Tua Nua and a founding member of the Young Dubliners). Previn divorced Bennett in 1957, a few months before she gave birth to Alicia.
In 1959, he married Dory Langan. A singer-songwriter, Dory became widely known as a lyricist with whom Previn collaborated on several Academy Award-nominated film scores during their marriage. After Previn divorced her in 1969 during her hospitalization for a mental breakdown, and after Previn was caught having an affair with 23 year old Mia Farrow, Dory resumed her career as a singer-songwriter with On My Way to Where (1970), a critically acclaimed album whose confessional lyrics were described as “searingly honest”, and chronicled both her mental health struggles and the infidelity that she alleged had at once precipitated the end of her marriage to Previn and exacerbated her intermittent mental illness In 2013, jazz singer Kate Dimbleby and pianist Naadia Sheriff revisited Dory Previn’s musical reflections on her marriage to André Previn in the London cabaret show, Beware Of Young Girls: The Dory Previn Story.
Previn’s third marriage, in 1970, was to Mia Farrow. Before their divorce in 1979, Previn and Farrow had three biological children together—twins Matthew and Sascha, born in 1970, and Fletcher, born in 1974. They then adopted Vietnamese infants Lark Song and Summer “Daisy” Song (born October 6, 1974), followed by Soon-Yi Previn, a Korean child whose age a physician’s bone scan placed between six and eight years old and whose unknown birth date her adoptive parents estimated as October 8, 1970. Lark died on Christmas Day 2008. In the aftermath of the scandal involving Soon-Yi and Mia Farrow’s partner Woody Allen, Previn said of Soon-Yi, “She does not exist.”
Previn’s most durable marriage was his fourth. In January 1982 he married Heather Sneddon. With Heather he had two children, Li-An Mary, adopted 1982 and Lukas Alexander, born 1983. Previn wrote a brief memoir of his early years in Hollywood, No Minor Chords, which was published in 1991, edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and dedicated to Heather. This marriage ended in divorce after 17 years
His fifth marriage, in 2002, was to the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, for whom in the previous year he had composed a violin concerto. They announced their divorce in August 2006, but continued to work together in concerts afterwards.
Honours and awards to André George Previn
Previn was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. He won four times, in 1958, 1959, 1963 and 1964. He is one of few composers to have accomplished the feat of winning back-to-back Oscars, and one of only two to have done so on two occasions (the other being Alfred Newman). Previn was the only person in the history of the Academy Awards to receive three nominations in one year (1961). In 1970 he was nominated for a Tony Award as part of Coco‘s nomination for Best Musical. In 1977 he became an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music. The 1977 television show Previn and the Pittsburgh was nominated for three Emmy awards.
Previn was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996. (Not being a citizen of a Commonwealth realm, he was permitted to use the post-nominal letters KBE but was not called “Sir André”.) Previn received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998 in recognition of his contributions to classical music and opera in the United States. In 2005 he was awarded the international Glenn Gould Prize and in 2008 won Gramophone magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in classical, film, and jazz music. In 2010, the Recording Academy honored Previn with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
André George Previn Death and Cause
Previn died on February 28, 2019, at home in Manhattan at the age of 89. No cause was released.
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