André George Previn

1929 2019

André George Previn

Composer • Conductor • Piano


Andre Previn was a conductor of note, having made his mark within many areas of music including composition, Hollywood film scores, as well as jazz and classical piano performance.

Born in Germany, Previn knew he wanted a musical life early on. His father was an amateur musician and helped support his son’s wish to pursue music. During the war, the family moved to Paris where Previn attended the Paris Conservatoire. They later emigrated to the United States and not long after, Previn became a citizen.

It was then that Andre Previn’s career began to flourish. He started as an orchestrator for MGM film studios which led to writing his own music. As was tradition in the studios, Previn learned to conduct his own compositions, which inspired him to explore conducting further.

Previn took conducting lessons with Monteux who was music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the time Previn was serving in the army. His official conducting debut would be in 1962 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Previn then went on to conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra in 1967 and left to become the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) principal conductor for 11 years beginning in 1968.

It was in Britain that Previn developed a love for the repertoire of English composers such asVaughan Williams, of whose complete symphonies he would record, as well asWalton and Britten. Previn gained popularity in Britain for presenting and conducting orchestral programmes on television and is often compared toLeonard Bernstein for such feats. While he was conducting the LSO <>, he often would perform chamber music with the musicians in smaller performances. In 1970, Previn became conductor emeritus of the LSO.

Previn’s next conductorship was with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1985, leaving to conduct theRoyal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 until 1991, and at the same time serving with theLos Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra until 1990 during which time he recorded a cycle of Prokofiev. In 2001, Previn replacedMariss Jansons as music director of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

In the 90s, Previn was easing out of conducting to begin composing film scores again and stage musical scores. Previn won four Academy Awards for film adaptations ofGigi, Porgy and Bess, Irma la Douce and My Fair Lady. He did not completely lose sight of his classical roots and composed a symphony for strings, concertos for cello and guitar, as well as a cello sonata for Yo-Yo Ma <> and a violin concerto for Gil Shaham. His first opera was A Streetcar Named Desire.

Andre Previn was awarded a KBE in 1996 and in 1998 won the Kennedy Center honour of Lifetime Achievement. Previn also won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Andre Previn records for the Deutsche Grammophon label and continues to guest conduct with leading orchestras.

Photos: © Harald Hoffmann / DG