Former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conductor André Previn dies at age 89
André Previn, one-time music director and principal conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, has died in Manhattan at age 89.
His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed Previn’s death to the Associated Press.
Beyond his conducting talents, Previn also brought to the symphony his “virtuosity at the piano and a musical sensibility shaped in Hollywood.”
Previn led the PSO from 1976-84. The symphony tweeted a tribute to him Thursday afternoon, saying, “We join the world in mourning the loss of our beloved former music director André Previn. Our deepest sympathies to his family. We will share memories soon.”
We join the world in mourning the loss of our beloved former music director André Previn. Our deepest sympathies to his family. We will share memories soon. pic.twitter.com/nGqUFzx0Wh
— Pittsburgh Symphony (@pghsymphony) February 28, 2019
The PSO later sent a release with remarks from several orchestra notables.
“André Previn was a musical genius, a revolutionary figure who came to Pittsburgh and launched the symphony into a remarkable new era of international acclaim,” said Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a statement released Thursday night. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and all who enjoyed his music around the world.”
“The world has lost a true musical legend and the symphony has lost a close and dear friend,” said Manfred Honeck, music director. “ I was so fortunate to play under his baton many times as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and recall his gentle approach. He was humorous, friendly and a natural partner in music-making.”
“When the symphony played at Carnegie Hall, Maestro Previn came backstage to share how happy and pleased he was to hear the outstanding playing of the orchestra,” Honeck said. “My heart goes out to his family and to all of the musicians he touched over the years.”
Previn began studying piano in his native Berlin at the age of 6. The rise of the Nazi regime sent his family first to Paris and later to Los Angeles, where, as a teen, he began composing, arranging and conducting film scores.
A four-time Oscar winner, Previn enjoyed a successful career as a jazz pianist before turning to conducting in 1960. He assumed a role as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, which he held until 1979, after assuming his directorship in Pittsburgh.
“I have no doubt that I was incredibly fortunate to start my career in the United States with a bona fide genius on the podium,” said Harold Smoliar, principal English horn with the PSO. “I had so much respect for his musical talent, which went far beyond his conducting. He and I shared a love of jazz, which we discussed fairly often. He had the most incredible sense of humor. Working with him was a high point of my career.”
The Pittsburgh Symphony made their PBS national debut with Previn in 1977 through a three-year series of eight specials, “Previn and the Pittsburgh.”
His former wife, actress Mia Farrow, bid him goodbye with a tweet.
See you in the Morning beloved Friend. May you rest in glorious symphonies pic.twitter.com/r546GFcsyV
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) February 28, 2019
His career included ventures with opera, with a 1998 performance based on “A Streetcar Named Desire” with the San Francisco Opera and regular returns to jazz.
“I don’t ever consciously change gears when I play jazz or classical. It’s all music,” Previn once said.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .