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Remembering André Previn in Rochester

Mar 1, 2019

André Previn at the Eastman School of Music in 2014

World-renowned composer, conductor, and pianist Andre Previn has died at the age of 89. 

During his wide-ranging career, Previn wrote Oscar-winning movie scores, played piano on noted jazz recordings, conducted pretty much all the top orchestras.

His compositions included an opera version of A Streetcar Named Desire – written for Renee Fleming in the starring role.  And in 2014, he wrote a piece for the Eastman Wind Ensemble: Music for Wind Orchestra (No strings attached).

When he visited for the premiere, Previn was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Rochester, and worked with students at the Eastman School of Music.

"I know that a lot of them have the deepest respect for music, but I want them to love it too," he said. "And if they do, and at the same time and learn their craft, and some kind of inspiration, they’ll do very well.

Music was part of Previn’s life as far back as he could remember, "My father was a lawyer, he was not a musician, but he adored music, and he was a very good amateur pianist," Previn recalled, "and we had music in the house at all times. Chamber music and guests and people who came over and sang and did all these things. And I just grew up with it."

"It’s funny," he said, "because I’ve never even considered doing anything else. I’ve always been of the opinion that a day without playing music, learning music, or listening to music – is a wasted day." 

Previn kept his enthusiasm for music, especially conducting, throughout his life. He laughed as he said, "I think every musician wants to conduct.  And, yes it’s great fun to conduct."

"It’s not just fun, it’s the best instrument there is, the orchestra. I’ve been conducting a long time, a very long time. For me, the very best sound is to hear an orchestra tune up. If I’m back stage, and I hear that “A” being bandied about the orchestra, I always find it thrilling.  Even now." 

He also encouraged everyone to find joy in music, whether or not it was their career. 

"There are a lot of adults (if you like) – parents – whose children play the piano, play the violin, play the viola whatever. And they all have dreams of the kids becoming world-wide virtuosos. It’s not necessary. It’s not necessary. If you learn an instrument or learn to compose enough to give yourself pleasure, and to give your friends pleasure, that’s more than enough.