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He was a true polymath who won four Oscars, conducted all the greatest orchestras around the world, played jazz as well as Mozart and Mendelssohn and Gershwin on the piano, and composed both jazz-inspired and 'classical' music.
Despite being an American who started his music career in Hollywood, he's probably more well-known in the UK than in the US because of his long association with the London Symphony Orchestra, with whom he made many memorable recordings of British music as well as Rachmaninov (including Ashkenazy's first Rachmaninov concerto cycle).....not to mention that famous Christmas comedy show about the Grieg concerto by Grieg, which has been posted in PW so many times before. Here it is again, for those who haven't seen it:
Thank you Bennevis for giving me this opportunity.
Andre Previn, you showed me how wonderful Rhapsody in Blue is and by that gave me a gift that has illuminated my life like few other things. Your musicianship and humanity, your dignity, knowledge and willingness to share improved my life and because of all these things I often think of you.
To also discover that you had a wonderful sense of humour was just the icing on the cake.
Wherever your energy is now, I wish you well, and am confident that your presence anywhere, if it is still possible, will light up and inspire the existance of all you come into contact with.
Along with only a few other pianists -- I'm thinking of Friedrich Gulda and Keith Jarrett in particular -- he was IMO equally fluent in both Jazz and Classical. And of course he shifted from the "Cool Jazz" LA scene all the way to being a significant conductor of the London Symphony orchestra, apart from his pianistic activities. And he provided significant compositions both in the Jazz and Classical spheres. That is just a remarkable legacy -- in the same league as Bernstein, IMO, although he is not generally acknowledged to be at that level.
By now Previn was gregarious, even jolly. The discussion turned to minimalism – “It’s kind of mean music, I prefer a lush sound,” – and a conversation he’d once had with Boulez (“a brilliant man”) about how electronic music could give every note computer-like precision, and from Boulez we moved seamlessly to Morecambe & Wise. I told Previn that my favourite line of the sketch – which sent up Eric’s efforts to play the Grieg Piano Concerto – was “for another fiver we could have had Ted Heath”. Previn’s face creased with mirth, and I was pleased to see that the sketch meant as much to him as everybody else. “Eric was very worried that I wasn’t a comedian. He said, ‘If anyone thinks we’re trying to be funny, we’re finished. We must act as though it’s very serious.’ The sketch was scheduled at about five minutes, but when we did it on air it was nearer 10. Eric added bits as he went, like when he slapped my face. To this day, whenever I walk down a street in London someone will shout, ‘Hey, Mr Preview.’ Every single bloody time.”
Gary Essex EUP-111 at the mountains W. Hoffmann T-122 at the beach
I asked about composers he enjoyed performing. “Mozart – it’s always been Mozart,” while of his recordings, he said: “I remain extraordinarily proud of the Vaughan Williams symphonies I recorded with the LSO, and in the 1980s and 90s I made an almost complete cycle of orchestral works by Richard Strauss with the Vienna Philharmonic. That was a source of pride for me because that’s really their music.”
That reminded me that among my favorite recordings of Also sprach Zarathustra, Eine Alpensinfonie, Metamorphosen and Rosenkavalier suite are Previn's with the Wiener Philharmoniker, because he gave this august band full rein to express their Viennese heritage, rather than imposing a heavy Germanic thread on the music like some other conductors.
Previn's recording of Mozart concertos with the same orchestra are in the same category - not as finely polished as full-time pianists like Uchida, but full of character. His LSO recordings of Vaughan Williams have always remained the benchmark among critics who know their VW, so I defer to them, as I don't know mine very well........
But Walton's Belshazzar's Feast is a work I know well, having studied it as one of the set works for my (high school) Music exam many decades ago ('O' Levels for those who remember what they were - and they were nothing like the dumbed-down replacement we have today........but I digress) as well as sung in it. Previn's interest in jazz make his recording of it one of the most idiomatic around:
Actually, that link doesn't quite have the whole video. Here's a clip with the (very funny) preamble. It's brilliant how they eventually have Andre so confused that even he gets his name wrong: "Mr. Preview", "Privet", "No, PREVIN!"
I couldn't agree more. This has always been my absolute favorite performance of the symphony. The slow movement, espec. the build up to the big sweeping strings motif with the countermelody in the horns around 36:15, is just gorgeous. Everything is so beautifully paced and shaped. Marvelous!