André Previn was born Andreas Ludwig Priwin to a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. His brother was the late director Steve Previn. 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 movie scores from 1948 onwards. He adapted and conducted the music for such film musicals as Gigi (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), and My Fair Lady (1964), winning an Oscar for each, and for years he was a member of the famous Arthur Freed musical unit at MGM.
In 1967, Previn became conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the following year added the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) to his portfolio. In subsequent years, he was at various times conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Previn has composed film scores and musicals and other musical works including a cello concerto and a guitar concerto.
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 (1956) was a best-seller.
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.
In the UK, he is particularly remembered for his performance as "Mr Andrew Preview" (or 'Privet') on the Morecambe and Wise show, which involved his conducting a spoof performance of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto, with Eric Morecambe as the 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 also worked with the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra, conducting them on a new record for the Argo label in 1970. Previn chose three pieces to conduct: his own composition Overture to a Comedy, John Ireland’s beautiful little Elegy from A Downland Suite and an overture written for the LSSO by Herbert Chappell called Panache. The LSSO’s next involvement with Previn was in the 1973 Omnibus television programme The Other LSO which featured the orchestra rehearsing Glinka, Beethoven and Rachmaninov. By way of artistic license the LSSO had suddenly become the LSO in order to make some sense of the programme’s title.
Previn has been married five times. His first two marriages, to Dory Previn and then to Mia Farrow, kept him in the public eye. After marriages to Betty Bennett and Heather Sneddon, in 2002 he wed the renowned German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. He wrote a violin concerto for her.
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