André Previn

Though Sir André Previn was born in Germany, he is considered an American composer.

Photo: André Previn,

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Born in Berlin to a family of Russian-Jewish origin, Previn showed amazing piano skills at an early age. In 1938, his family fled Germany for Paris, where he studied at the Conservatoire for a brief period, before his family moved to Los Angeles the following year. Previn became an American citizen in 1943.

He used his talents as a pianist, playing for silent films, and then became as an orchestrator for MGM film studios. His career quickly blossomed, as he began to composer his own film scores, conduct orchestras and become fluent in classical and jazz styles of music as well as popular. He won four Academy awards for his film adaptations of Gigi (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), Irma la Douce (1963) and My Fair Lady (1964).

His official conducting début came in 1962 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and, after conducting several other orchestras, he became principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1968. He served there many years, and had succeeding posts at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra.

In 1977, Previn began to write serious vocal music, setting the text of American poet Philip Larkin in his Five Songs (written for Janet Baker). His song cycles have usually be written for specific singers: Honey and Rue for Kathleen Battle (1992), Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy the Kid for Barbara Bonney (1994), and Four Songs with text of Toni Morrison for Sylvia McNair.

–Christie Finn

Source: New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Related Information



Diversions, Songs

(André Previn)


I Want Magic!

(Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and André Previn)


American Songs (Barbara Bonney)

(Dominick Argento, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and André Previn)


Honey and Rue

(Samuel Barber and André Previn)


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