Tuesday, August 29, 2017

André Previn (*1929)

No. 257 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast257



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Summer is entering its last few weeks, and my two-month hiatus from the Tuesday Blog comes to an end with one of my “quarterly” montages.

The term “triple threat” comes up from time to time in sports and in performing arts as a very distinct form of praise to somebody who can hit for percentagehit for power and steal bases in baseball, or actsing and dance on the Broadway stage or actwrite and direct in Hollywood.

The primary subject for today’s musical share is himself a triple threat – as a composerconductor and pianist. We could also state his threat status somewhat differently as a man of jazzfilm and concert music.


In spite of a French-sounding name, André Previn (no accent aigu on the family name, I checked!) isn’t French at all – he’s born in Berlin, emigrated to America where, to make ends meet, his father gave music lessons at home. Young Previn studied piano, theory, and composition from the best instructors available, Joseph Achron and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and later conducting studies with Pierre Monteux. As a teenager Previn practiced piano up to six hours a day. 

Eager to help his family financially, he quickly followed up when he heard that the movie studio Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) needed someone to compose a jazz arrangement (a musical score). This led to writing more arrangements, at first sporadically and then more regularly, several times a week after school. Seduced by Hollywood's glamour, he signed a contract with MGM when he turned eighteen. 

His early career of orchestrating film scores at MGM led quickly to conducting engagements of symphonic repertoire and on to an international career as Music Director of orchestras as London, Los Angeles, Oslo and Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, he concentrated increasingly on compositions for the concert hall and opera. His own richly lyrical style underscores his love of the late Romantic and early 20th-century masterpieces of which his interpretations as conductor are internationally renowned.

Previn’s discography as a jazz pianist, classical pianist and conductor is impressive. I retained two of them in today’s montage both concertos featuring him as soloist and conductor. The first is of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 17 (with the Vienna Philharmonic) and the other is of Gershwin’s Jazz-inspired Concerto in F with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

To complete the montage, I added a solo piano composition by Previn – a series of short piano vignettes “Five Pages from my Calendar” composed in the 1970‘s.