MANHATTAN (CelebrityAccess) Andre Previn, 89, famed conductor, composer and four-time Oscar-winner, died early this morning in his home in Manhattan, according to manager Linda Petrikova.
Born in Berlin on April 6, 1929, as Andreas Ludwig Priwin, he grew up in Los Angeles after fleeing Germany in 1938, first to Paris, then New York, before landing in Hollywood. He began his career playing piano for silent screen movies at the Rhapsody Theatre.
“There was one of those huge silent epics which kept vacillating allegorically between biblical times and the Roaring ’20s, and so I really had to pay attention,” Previn told NPR’s Weekend Edition in 1991. “But I noticed that each time they switched venues, as it were, it would stay there for a while. So we came out of a biblical time and back into people Charlestoning their life away. And I thought, ‘Well, I’m safe for a few minutes.’ And so I started playing ‘Tiger Rag,’ and I heard a commotion in the audience, and the manager was storming down the aisle. And I took a quick look up on the screen — and I was playing ‘Tiger Rag’ to the Crucifixion, which was a bad choice. And I was out on the pavement about three minutes later.”
He eventually began working on movie scores for MGM but eventually abandoned his Hollywood career to pursue classical music.
“At MGM, you knew you were going to be working next year, you knew you were going to get paid. But I was too ambitious musically to settle for it. And I wanted to gamble with whatever talent I might have had,” he told a Guardian interviewer in 2008.
He became the music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra in 1967, then was appointed principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, which he held for 11 years. During that time he made regular television appearances including the BBC’s Weekly “Andre Previn’s Music Night.”
His first opera, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” premiered in San Francisco in 1998 with Renee Fleming as Blanche DuBois.,
“André’s music-making thrilled me long before I was lucky enough to play with him, but when I did, it was the extraordinary sound he conjured from an orchestra, unmistakably his own, that dazzled,” Andrew Marriner, London Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinet and lifelong friend of Previn, told the Guardian today. “In Strauss, Walton, Rachmaninov and so much more, he drew the players into a deeply moving collaboration. His touch on the piano in Mozart concertos and in chamber music was divine, his compositions fabulously crafted. Never one to suffer fools, his wicked sense of humour could be sharp, always hilarious.”
Previn became the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1976 to 1984 and was the principal conductor for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 1985-1988.
He was nominated for an Oscar 11 times and one for best scoring of a musical for Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and best score (adaptation or treatment) for the Billy Wilder comedy Irma la Couce and for George Cuckor’s version of My Fair Lady.