André Previn, the four-time Oscar-winning composer and conductor, died today at his home in New York. He was 89.
His death was confirmed to The New York Times by his manager Linda Petrikova.
Among Previn’s many movie credits, his musical work, scores or arrangements for Gigi (1958), Porgy & Bess (1959), Irma la Douce (1963) and My Fair Lady (1964) won Oscars. In one particularly Oscar-friendly year, 1961, Previn was nominated for his scores for Elmer Gantry and Bells Are Ringing, and the song “Faraway Part of Town” from the film Pepe.
Among his many other awards, Previn was honored with Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Previn’s dozens of film scores, orchestrations and other music contributions (even uncredited ones) stretch back to 1948’s Tenth Avenue Angel and 1949’s Lassie movie The Sun Comes Up, and continue through ’50s classics like Bad Day At Black Rock, Gigi, and Kismet, to ’60s prestige films including A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Elmer Gantry, Irma la Douce, Two For The Seesaw and My Fair Lady.
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Outside of Hollywood, Previn wrote, with Allan Jay Lerner, the 1969 Broadway musical Coco starring Katharine Hepburn as Coco Chanel. In 1974 he composed the music, to Johnny Mercer’s lyrics, for the London musical production The Good Companions. He wrote, with librettist Philip Littel, a 1998 opera version of A Streetcar Named Desire and, in 2007, the movie-based opera Brief Encounter, with John Caird.
Previn was also known worldwide as a performer and pianist, who appeared with artists as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald and Renée Fleming. He was a frequent guest, both in concert and on record, of major orchestras around the globe, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. He held chief artistic posts with the Houston Symphony, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras.
His chamber music work and concertos included collaborations with his fifth wife, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Lynn Harrell. In 2009, to celebrate his 80th birthday, Previn presented four concerts with music spanning his career at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Previn was a frequent presence on television, particularly in England. In the United States he was featured in the 1977 TV special Previn and the Pittsburgh with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Previn’s personal life was unusually public for a composer and conductor of “serious” music. After his first marriage to jazz singer Betty Bennett ended in 1958, Previn married lyric writer Dory Langan, who found fame of her own as Dory Previn, a singer-songwriter who detailed, in song, the couple’s headline-making break-up prompted by the husband’s affair with the also-married (to Frank Sinatra) Mia Farrow. Previn and Farrow later married, had three children and adopted two others (including Soon-Yi Previn, who would go on to marry Farrow’s longtime companion Woody Allen, prompting Previn to publicly declare, “She does not exist.”).
After his divorce with Farrow, Previn married and divorced Heather Haines Sneddon and, later, Mutter.
According to Previn’s official website, his awards and honors include the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, the Glenn Gould Prize, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center and the London Symphony Orchestra. He won Grammy Awards for recordings of his violin concerto “Anne-Sophie” and recordings with the Boston and London Symphony orchestras.
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