Skip to page content

André Previn

Conductor

About this Artist

Displaying prodigy-level talent on the piano, André Previn entered the Berlin Hochschule für Musik at the age of six. His family fled Nazi Germany in 1938, however, stopping for a year in Paris, where Previn studied with Marcel Dupré at the Conservatory. The following year the family moved to Los Angeles, where his father’s cousin Charles Previn was music director at Universal Studios. In L.A., André Previn studied composition with other emigres – Joseph Achron, Ernst Toch, and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco – and started working in the MGM studios even before graduating from high school. While stationed in San Francisco in the military, he studied conducting with Pierre Monteux. As a music director for MGM, he won four Academy Awards for orchestration.

In 1962, he made his formal concert debut as a conductor with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In the late 1960s, he began a series of over-lapping conducting appointments, and in 1985 he became the ninth music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he stayed until resigning in 1989 in a contentious dispute with then-Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann. With the LA Phil, he made a series of distinguished recordings, particularly of music by Prokofiev. Throughout his career he performed as a concert and jazz pianist (two of his 11 Grammys were for jazz recordings), and he collaborated frequently with LA Phil musicians in chamber music performances.

Previn is also a widely-performed composer of works ranging from film scores (Elmer Gantry, Bad Day at Black Rock), through concertos and song cycles to musicals (Coco, The Good Companions) and opera (A Streetcar Named Desire, Brief Encounter). One of his last completed pieces is Can Spring Be Far Behind?, commissioned by the Eastern Music Festival and given its world premiere by the Festival Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz in July, 2016.

— John Henken