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ANDRE PREVIN,
1929-2019

Pianist, conductor and composer Andre Previn, who found success in performing and composing classical, jazz and film scores in addition to leading major orchestras, died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 89.

A native of Berlin who grew up in Los Angeles, he was a teenage jazz virtuoso who accompanied silent films and got his first job working for MGM scoring films. Over more than two decades beginning in 1949, he would compose scores for dozens of films as well as conduct. He would adapt stage musicals such as “Kiss Me Kate,” “Silk Stockings” and “Bells Are Ringing” for film.

Beginning in 1950, he simultaneously had a career as a jazz pianist, recording small-band albums for labels such as RCA and Contemporary. In 1960’s The Subterraneans, Previn most famously mixed his two mediums, creating a jazz score for the film using jazz musicians such as Red Mitchell and Frank Kapp.

He was the pianist on the wildly popular 1956 album of jazz interpretations of My Fair Lady credited to Shelly Manne & his Friends; Previn was one friend, bassist Leroy Vinnegar was the other.

In the late ‘60s, Previn shied away from film and jazz to concentrate on classical music, starting as chief conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra in 1967 and becoming principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra a year later.

He took over the podium of  the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1985, resigning in 1989 after multiple squabbles with L.A. Phil GM Ernest Fleischmann.

He won 10 Grammy Awards in soundtrack, jazz and classical categories; The Recording Academy honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 ceremony His scores for Gigi and Porgy Bess earned him his first two Grammys and two of his four Oscars.

"André Previn was a multitalented composer, conductor, and pianist who achieved supreme success across the jazz, pop, and classical music genres,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, who noted that Previn won his first award at the inaugural Grammy Awards in 1958. “His eclectic approach to creating music and ability to effortlessly combine genres will continue to be celebrated by our industry. André was an incomparable talent, and his legacy will live on through his countless compositions.”

He composed the 1969 stage musical Coco with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. It is best known as the only stage musical Katharine Hepburn ever appeared ion on Broadway.

Previn's voluminous and varied discography includes Previn playing the music of Gershwin, Ellington and Rachmaninov; collaborating with Itzhak Perlman, Leontyne Price, Dinah Shore, Mahalia Jackson and the last of his five ex-wives, Anne-Sophie Mutter; and conducting Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Berlioz.

At 69, he wrote his first of two operas, A Streetcar Named Desire, that premiered at the San Francisco Opera with Renée Fleming in the role of Blanche DuBois.

Most recently, Fleming performed his song cycle “Lyrical Yeats” in 2017, a Carnegie Hall show being the highest profile one. Last year, Mutter played his The Fifth Season, which she and Carnegie Hall had commissioned.

 

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