This afternoon brought the sad news that André Previn, German-American pianist, conductor and composer, had died at the age of 89. A highly versatile musician who blurred the boundaries of genres and disciplines, he was a musical polymath, equally at home conducting the big warhorses of the classical canon, composing film scores, performimg and directing piano concertos from the keyboard, playing jazz at sold out venues, or good-naturedly engaging with the silliness of comedians Morecombe and Wise in a classic sketch featuring “the Grieg Piano Concerto by Grieg”.
As a child growing up in the late 60s and 70s and enjoying a lot of music at home, he was a big part of my musical upbringing, along with artists like Daniel Barenboim. Alfred Brendel and Paul Tortelier. I enjoyed watching his television programmes André Previn’s Music Night with my parents, where he conducted the LSO (often sporting a colourful silk neck scarf), and introduced works from the classical repertoire in a way which was informative, intelligent and accessible, never dumbed down nor patronising. This was at a time when it was quite usual to find classical music on prime time television – something we have lost today, where it is now consigned to the relative backwater of BBCFour and no longer feels part of the everyday cultural landscape. Previn’s suave ability to cross the boundaries between classical music and jazz proved that it was possible to like all music without snobbery. I was also lucky enough to see him conduct the LSO live on a couple of occasions.
There is a detailed appreciation of Andre Previn in the New York Times