By Megan Westberg
Conductor, composer, and performer André Previn died today in his Manhattan home. He was 89. Known throughout his life for versatility and musical eclecticism—in addition to serving as music director at several high-profile orchestras, he played jazz piano and composed musicals, operas, chamber music, orchestral works, and violin concertos—his frequent comparison to Leonard Bernstein was probably inevitable. Previn, for his part, considered his own career made possible by Bernstein, who in his opinion paved the way for artists to work in a variety of styles, not limited by the choice of only one.
Over the course of his career, Previn won four Oscar Awards for his film work and ten Grammys, in addition to a Grammy for lifetime achievement. He served as music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and as principal conductor of the London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Among Previn’s output of orchestral and chamber works, one of his most celebrated in the string world is the Violin Concerto (2001), which he wrote for violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who was at the time of its composition his fiance. Their marriage ended in 2006, but the two remained close musical collaborators and friends.
“André Previn has for more than 70 years illuminated this often dark world with his extraordinary gifts, his superb intelligence and wit,” Mutter said in a statement.
“We were companions in music for four decades and closest and dearest soulmates in the last 19 years. These years have brought me an abundance of deeply moving and challenging violin works. One of the first of them, the violin concerto, was an engagement present. I am forever grateful for all of his musical treasures.
“André will live on in the hearts of the millions of music lovers that his life and music has touched. His many scores will continue to enrich the life of musicians around the globe.
“Right now André is probably in the middle of a jam session with Oscar and Wolfgang . . . and he will outplay them.”