Previn, the musician who never let you down

London musicians with long memories recall the day when Dame Janet Baker cancelled an LSO concert pretty much at the last minute.

Andre Previn scratched his head for a moment. Then he said, we’ll do the Gershwin concerto. If the soloist fails to show, the conductor can always play solo.

That was Previn in a nutshell. Mr Reliable, the man who could improvise his way out of a tight corner, or any musical situation as it arose.

Popular as he was among musicians, he was positively adored by recording teams. He respected his colleagues and treated them well, working as late as it took until the editor and producer were fully satisfied. They ought to put up a plaque to him at Abbey Road.

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    • I see that someone on Twitter has called it a “silly” episode, implying that it detracted from a serious career and also from his memory. How silly to make such a comment. There Previn was, improvising too, at one point, with a master in his own field, Eric Morecambe. It must be one of the most beloved comedy clips in Britain – “If you don’t know it, well… your parents do” – and could only enhance Previn’s already great reputation. As a schoolboy I wrote to him for an autographed photo and his performance on his BBC Music Night of Tchaikovsky‘s first piano concerto led me to buy one of my earliest LPs in Inverness. I owe this man a great deal. And I am delighted by the generosity and warmth of spirit displayed in everything I’ve read about him since he passed away.

  • The Gershwin “Concerto in F” was my first ever LP with André Previn! Kostelanetz conducted his own orchestra

  • There was one time when Andre had to cancel in Pittsburgh. I jumped in for him. A few weeks later, my son was born and Andre volunteered to sub for me if need be. A wonderful man, great musician and loyal friend.

    • Leonard, as you remembered, my parents ran a concert series at the Hollywood-Los Feliz Jewish Community Center in LA. About 60 years ago, the scheduled artists canceled, at most, 2 days before they were to perform! My father asked the violinist Israel Baker and Andre Previn to step in and give a sonata recital at such short notice. They did, and the results were incredible. There was an unbelievable edge and excitement which probably would not have been present at a concert with longer preparation time. (Sort of like when you and John Browning did the Prokofiev 3rd Concerto at Saratoga!)

      In my limited opinion, Previn also created the finest one hour in the history of television with the episode from his program on PBS “Previn and the Pittsburgh”, where he presented Oscar Peterson in performance and conversation, capped by a jazz duo that they played together. It still can be seen on Youtube, chopped up into segments.
      (Does anyone know if this was taped at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh or somewhere in London. There are BBC logos in the corner of the screen.)

      Finally, is it my imagination, or when one checks out at a Costco store, do the first 3 notes of the Barber Piano Concerto signal to remove your credit card?!!

      Best wishes Leonard!
      Thank you for words as well as music.

      David Lowenkron

    • I was in the old DSO Summer Youth Orchestra at the wonderful Meadowbrook Music Festival they had ( 1812 Overture-type stuff but also innovative things like the première of George Walker’s Trombone Concerto !) and met M. Previn by way of a softball game between the Orchestra and the Youth Orchestra and he was the Umpire ! He was such a nice person; totally laid back and seemed to be having fun. Never looked at his watch; hammed it up; what fun. There were many highlights of that time (1973) – earlier that day a couple of us were introduced by choir friends to Maître & Mme. Durufle – his Requiem was being performed that weekend. And we got to work with the great Ehrling .M, another big thrill. But Andre Previn was the biggest name in classical music at the time – and didn’t even start out in it professionally – yet was so gracious, so easy-going. His Vaughan Williams cycle ( esp. the Pastoral ) will never be forgotten. RIP. And to you Sir, thank you from so many for all you’ve done for Detroit.

  • He was very special and I loved the way he made music. Even if I wasn’t totally in agreement with him about something – he never failed to touch one.
    He’ll be sorely missed.

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