There can be no doubt that throughout his long career André Previn has never wasted a minute, let alone a day. For over six decades he has immersed himself in music of all kinds: jazz piano, film composition, classical piano, conducting and composing.
As a teenager, he enthusiastically embraced the American jazz idiom and worked as a pianist in many ensembles, with vocalists and as a solo jazz pianist. He was influenced by Oscar Peterson and worked with greats such as Shelly Manne and Ella Fitzgerald. As one of the few musicians who is comfortable in both the jazz and classical idioms, his concert repertoire and recordings include many classical solo piano works, collaborations with singers (Renée Fleming being a favourite), and chamber and orchestral works. His recordings have won him 11 Grammy awards. German born and trained, he settled in Los Angeles in 1940. In the 1950s he shot to prominence as a Hollywood composer and arranger, winning four Academy Awards for film scores. An abiding interest in classical music led him to temporarily abandon jazz and film music to focus on conducting. From the late 1960s he led six major orchestras, the longest collaboration being 11 years with the London Symphony Orchestra. He favours symphonic music of the Classical and Romantic eras from Mozart and Haydn to Brahms and Richard Strauss, as well as 20th century composers such as Barber, Shostakovich and Korngold. He shuns the avant-garde styles such as atonality and minimalism.
Television enabled Previn to reach a wider audience who were able to enjoy his work with the Pittsburgh Orchestra in America and with the London Symphony Orchestra in Britain. His involvement there in a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show revealed another side of him: a wonderful talent for comedy! In 1996 he was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Previn’s personal life has been as interesting as his musical career. He has married and divorced five times, the most notable partners being Mia Farrow and his fifth and most recent wife, Anne-Sophie Mutter, for whom he has written several works and with whom he has made many recordings. Aged 88, and with his mobility somewhat restricted by arthritis, his primary activity now is composing. He is presently writing an opera on the subject of Penelope, wife of Ulysses, in collaboration with Tom Stoppard. Discover the three facets of André Previn as conductor, pianist and composer at 2.30pm on Thursdays 8, 15 and 22 February.