Andre Previn was born to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. His brother was the late director Steve Previn (1925-1993). With his family, he emigrated to the United States in 1938 to escape the Nazi Regime in Germany. He became a US citizen in 1943, grew up in Los Angeles, and first came to prominence by arranging and composing Hollywood film scores since 1948.
In 1967, Previn became music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. In 1968, Previn 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 television in the program André Previn's Music Night. From 1976-1984, Previn was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO), and in turn had another television series with the PSO titled Previn and the Pittsburgh. He has also held principal conducting positions with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. His many recordings include the three complete ballets of Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, and the complete symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, all with the LSO.
Previn has composed film scores and other musical works including a cello concerto and a guitar concerto. He has also adapted and conducted the music for several films—some of them stage-to-film adaptations such as My Fair Lady, Kismet, Porgy and Bess, Paint Your Wagon, but several especially for film, including the Academy Award-winning Gigi.
In the mid-to-late 1950s, and more recently, he toured and recorded as a jazz pianist. Mainly recording for Contemporary Records, he worked with Shelly Manne and Benny Carter. An album he recorded with Manne of songs from My Fair Lady was a best-seller. He collaborated with Julie Andrews on a collection of Christmas carols in 1966, focusing on rarely heard carols. This popular album has been reissued many times over the years, and is now available on CD.
In later years, he has concentrated on composing classical music. He collaborated with Tom Stoppard on Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, a play with substantial musical content which was first performed in London in 1977 with Previn conducting the LSO. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, premiered at the San Francisco Opera in 1998. His numerous other classical works include vocal, chamber, and orchestral music. Occasionally he has made recordings of jazz music on the Telarc label.
In the United Kingdom, he is particularly remembered for his performance as “Mr Andrew Preview” (or Privet) on the Morecambe and Wise comedy show, which involved his conducting a spoof performance of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto, with Eric Morecambe as soloist. Because of other commitments, the only time available for Previn to learn his part was during a transatlantic flight, but the talent he showed for comedy won high praise from his co-performers.
Previn has been married five times. His first three marriages, to Betty Bennett, Dory Previn and then to Mia Farrow, kept him in the public eye. After his fourth marriage to Heather Sneddon had ended, in 2002, Previn wed the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and later wrote a violin concerto for her.
Previn wrote a memoir of his early Hollywood years, No Minor Chords, published in 1991.
Selected film works
Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Inside Daisy Clover (1965)
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1961)
Bells Are Ringing (1960)
Elmer Gantry (1960)
Silk Stockings (1957)
It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1954)
Kiss Me, Kate (1953)
Three Little Words (1950)
Awards and recognitions
Previn received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998 in recognition for his contributions to classical music and opera in the United States. He was appointed an honorary Knight of the British Empire in 1996. As he is not a citizen of a Commonwealth Realm, he is not entitled to the form "Sir André Previn", however he is entitled to use the post-nominal letters KBE. In 2005, Previn was awarded the International Glenn Gould Prize in recognition of his achievements.
Previn has received thirteen Academy nominations, with 4 Oscar awards for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score:
1959 Porgy & Bess
1963 Irma la Douce
1964 My Fair Lady
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