Andre Previn: I was told I had no talent

From a 2015 interview with New Music Box.


Full transcript here.

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  • there are some possible euphemisms in such situations , for example “get the packed out with you conclusions” or “pack yourself until you get a clearer view”
    PS you’ve got a point for that footage , Norman, I laughed 😉

      • Nobody is eternal …. take it in stride, sometimes somebody passes away before we do the same. I usually go to the nearest church and light/hold a candle for that person…. Some say we shouldn’t cry over them because it prevent them from moving higher in other worlds, I (somehow) believe in that words…. just a few thoughts on a subject …..

  • Priceless. And a great story to tell to students, who get told that kind of thing with dismaying frequency (and often great inaccuracy).

    • Reminds me of the famous pianists who never won a prize in any international piano competition. And of those who did and who now work in a university or music school.

  • Ernst Toch died in 1964, when Previn was 35. I can’t help wondering what he thought of Previn’s later development, if he made the connection with that young boy.

    • You always remember the ones that got away and whose talent exceeded your ability to assess their potential. Said from experience.

    • Toch came from the old world of Mahler, Schönberg, Berg etc. Hollywood was only a life necessity for him. I don’t think the Hollywood world itself, its industry and community and jazz and television et al was his cop of tea.
      Klemperer might have told Previn the same, although I doubt very much André had asked Old Klemp to “F*ck himslef”!…

  • The same was told to Dmitry Shostakovich mother when she took her aspiring pianist son to Alexandre Silotti.”The boy has no talent but if he like to play let him” said AS. History proved that boy had more talent than the maestro

  • I am grateful for your gentle remembrances of this talented musician – I remember a time when your reviews were sometimes less than positive!

    • Dear Heather
      Of course they were. And there is much more to say about this multifaceted man, just not right now.
      best wishes

      • Great in Mozart, Tchaikovsky and English music but not a first choice in Bruckner, Mahler or Wagner.

        This is still a fabulous achievement which we can enjoy. And a critic would be right to say this when reviewing a recording or performance.

  • Almost an Overture, 2017
    Caps and Bells for Orchestra, 2015
    Cello Concerto 1, 1960
    Cello Concerto 2, 2010
    Concerto for Horn, Trumpet, Tuba and Orchestra, 2011
    Concerto for Orchestra, 2016
    Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, 2014
    Concerto for Violin, Double Bass and Orchestra, 2004
    Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, 2009
    Diversions for Orchestra, 1999
    Filmscore “Bad Day at Black Rock,” 1954
    Filmscore “Elmer Gantry,” 1960
    Filmscore “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” 1961
    Filmscore “Inside Daisy Clover,” 1965
    Filmscore “It’s Always Fair Weather,” 1955
    Filmscore “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” 1962
    Filmscore “The Sun Comes Up,” 1949
    Guitar Concerto, 1970
    Harp Concerto, 2007
    Incidental Music for ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’, 1976
    Music for Boston, 2012
    Music for Wind Orchestra (No Strings Attached), 2014
    Night Thoughts for Orchestra, 2005
    Overture to a Comedy, 1963
    Piano Concerto, 1984
    Principals for Orchestra, 1980
    Reflections for English Horn (or Cello) and Orchestra, 1981
    Symphony for Strings, 1965
    Tone Poem “Can Spring be Far Behind?,” 2016
    Tone Poem “Owls,” 2008
    Violin Concerto 1, 1969
    Violin Concerto 2 “Anne-Sophie,” 1999
    Violin Concerto 3, 2010

    Bassoon Sonata, 1997
    Cello Sonata, 1993
    Clarinet Quintet, 2011
    Clarinet Sonata, 2010
    Four Outings for 5-Part Brass Ensemble, 1974
    Hoch soll er leben for Horn, 2 Trumpets, Trombone and Tuba, 1997
    Montfort for Oboe and Piano, 2016
    Nonet, 2014
    Octet for Eleven, 2010
    Peaches for Flute and Piano, 1978
    Quintet for Horn and Strings, 2017
    String Quartet (with Soprano), 2003
    Tango, Song and Dance for Violin and Piano, 1997
    Trio 1 for Piano, Violin and Cello, 2008
    Trio 2 for Piano, Violin and Cello, 2012
    Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon, 1994
    Triolet for Horn, 4 Trumpets, 4 Trombones and Tuba, 1985
    Two Little Serenades for Violin and Piano, 1970
    Violin Sonata 1, 1960
    Violin Sonata 2 “Vineyard,” 1994
    Violin Sonata 3, 2011
    Violin Sonata 4 “Morning Rain and Warm Evening,” 2013
    Violin Sonata 5 “The Fifth Season,” 2016
    Violin Sonata 6 “ … and Another Airport,” 2018
    A Wedding Waltz for 2 Oboes and Piano, 1986

    Five Pages From My Calendar, 1978
    Impressions (20) for Piano, 1964
    Invisible Drummer (Five Preludes), 1974
    Matthew’s Piano Book (10 Pieces), 1979
    Paraphrase on a Theme by Walton, 1973
    Suite for Piano, 1967
    Variations on a Theme by Haydn, 1990

    The Faraway Part of Town (for Movie ‘Pepe’), 1959
    Five (Larkin) Songs, 1977
    Four (Morrison) Songs for Soprano, Cello and Piano, 1994
    Four Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, 1968
    Four Songs for Tenor and Piano, 2004
    The Giraffes Go to Hamburg for Soprano, Alto Flute and Piano, 2000
    The Magic Number for Soprano and Orchestra, 1995
    Monodrama “Penelope” for Soprano, String Quartet and Piano, 2019
    One, Two, Three Waltz (for Movie ‘One, Two, Three’), 1961
    Sallie Chisum remembers Billy the Kid, 1994
    A Second Chance (for Movie ‘Two For the Seesaw’), 1962
    Sieben Lieder for Soprano and Piano, 2006
    Song Cycle “Honey and Rue,” 1992
    Song Cycle “Ten by Yeats,” 2017
    Theme for ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (Gotta Get Off, Gonna Get), 1967
    Three Dickinson Songs for Soprano and Piano, 1999
    Two Remembrances for Soprano, Alto Flute and Piano, 1995
    Vocalise for Voice and Cello, 1995
    You’re Gonna Hear From Me (for Movie ‘Inside Daisy Clover’), 1965

    Musical “Coco,” 1969
    Musical “The Good Companions,” 1974
    A Streetcar Named Desire, 1997
    A Streetcar Named Desire: I Can Smell the Sea Air
    A Streetcar Named Desire: I Want Magic
    Brief Encounter, 2007
    Brief Encounter: Fred, Fred, Dear Fred
    Brief Encounter: This Is a Face of a Woman Who Lies
    Brief Encounter: This Pain Can’t Last

    • I was there when Previn conducted the premier of “Owls,” at Symphony Hall Boston in 2008. He was really frail even that many years ago.

  • I’m inclined to give Ernst Toch a bit of leeway for his foolish remark. Toch received his training in Vienna around the turn of the century when concepts of music education for composers and pianists were fairly different than in the USA in the mid 40s when this incident took place. It’s unfortunate his Viennese ear did appreciate the jazz nutured sensibility of a kid who was attending Beverly Hills High School, but understandable given the circumstances.

    But most of all, I give Toch some leeway because while a young man he rose to become one of the leading composers in the German-speaking world, but had to flee when Hitler took power. (He had rather humble origins. His father was a leather merchant.) Unlike Korngold, he was wasn’t very successful in establishing himself in Hollywood. His career took a steep dive and never returned. Given his remarkable promise, and its destruction, he was one of the most notable victims of the Nazi persecutions.

    And of course, Previn’s rendition of the encounter, and the fuck you response, sounds like it might be a bit embellished.

    • Embellishments aside, if Previn properly regaled the spirit of their interaction, Toch should have not humiliated a 16-year old. He could have qualified his criticism without dismissing the young Previn. There are many ways to process trauma, including generosity of spirit. Examples of the latter abound, both in the public sphere, including Jewish victims of the Nazis, and among people we personally know.

  • Vaughan Williams reminiscing about a typical composition lesson with Charles Villiers Stanford:

    CVS: Damnably ugly, my boy, why do you write such things?

    RVW: I shouldn’t write them if I didn’t like them.

    CVS: But you can’t like them, they’re not music.

      • Richard Strauss seems to have had it in for several “modernists” — here’s another famous barb-and-retort:

        Strauss: “Why do you have to write this way? You have talent!”

        Paul Hindemith: “Herr professor, you make your music and I’ll make mine.”

      • At least one major composer laced his critiques with a dose of humor… Rossini was visited by a young aspirant who asked the senior composer to listen to two piano pieces he had written. As soon as the younger man had finished playing the first one, Rossini quickly said, “I like the other one better!”

  • I think Previn must be referring to Tippett’s triple not double concerto and I agree it’s not worth the effort.

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