Wednesday, April 22, 2009

André Previn: An 80th Birthday Celebration

Honoring the Award-Winning Composer, Conductor and Pianist with a Glittering Showcase of Songs

In honor of André Previn’s 80th birthday last week, Sony Masterworks is proud to announce the release of the recording, André Previn: An 80th Birthday Celebration. This compilation includes the full breadth of his career as a pianist, composer and conductor joined by many of his greatest and most enduring collaborators, in everything from jazz to the classical orchestral repertoire.

Carnegie Hall is also saluting Mr. Previn with a concert series. A chamber music program on April 22nd includes violinist (and ex-wife) Anne-Sophie Mutter and cellist Lynn Harrell, playing piano trios by Mozart and Mendelssohn as well as Mr. Previn's own newly commissioned Piano Trio. On April 26 Carnegie Hall's celebration concludes with Previn conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Ms. Mutter, soprano Renée Fleming and violist Yuri Bashmet. The program features his Violin Concerto "Anne-Sophie," the world premiere of his Concerto for Violin and Viola, and arias from his opera "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Even among the wide-ranging and singularly American talents of the past sixty years, André Previn stands out for his career as a celebrated film composer, incomparable jazz pianist, and respected conductor and composer of “serious” music. Sony Masterworks celebrates a lifetime of achievement on the occasion of Previn’s 80th birthday (on April 6th) with the release of André Previn: An 80th Birthday Celebration, a showcase of the composer and performer at his most varied and inspired.

This release features Previn playing piano in jazz band renditions of Ray Henderson’s “Bye Bye Blackbird,” Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day,” and Weill’s “Mack the Knife” and “Bilbao Song.” Previn’s film compositions are represented by the theme from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Subterraneans. He conducts Vaughan Williams’s The Wasps: Overture and his own Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, in a recording with guitarist John Williams, available for the first time on CD. Also included is “Vocalise,” with soprano Sylvia McNair and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

The pieces in this collection may belong to dissimilar musical genres, but Previn’s musical personality — lightly playful, keenly smart, elegantly precise — is everywhere apparent.

The jazz works range from saucy and light to smoky and sultry. On “Mack the Knife,” the players tease out an outrageously fun bitonality, playing in keys separated by a tritone. Previn’s title track for the 1960 beatnik film The Subterraneans, in an arrangement by trumpet player Terence Blanchard, emerges as a piece with a split personality, modulating back and forth between extroverted film music and a dusky, jazzy slow jam. Previn has made a specialty of various composers and musical eras in his lifetime — from Gershwin to Richard Strauss — and his love for late-Romantic English music is evident in his conducting of Vaughan Williams’s The Wasps: Overture with the London Symphony Orchestra. The stirring Concerto for Guitar, played beautifully by John Williams, shows Previn as a classical composer drawing upon a lifetime of influences — the gentle use of dissonant keys, a mercurial sense of musical style, and a tightly composed classical form.

Only in the deeply personal form of classical composition have Previn’s various interests bled into one another. In the realms of film composition, jazz performance, and classical conducting, he has been fiercely committed to the respectful interpretation of others’ creative work.

André Previn (b. 1929 in Berlin) began his career orchestrating film scores at MGM as a teenager, before finding great success as a film composer and jazz pianist. Shortly after winning his fourth Oscar® in 1965, for scoring My Fair Lady, Previn shifted his energies from film and jazz to an immediately successful career as a classical conductor, having honed his skills in classical performance. The quality of his music-making made the question of “crossover” irrelevant to audiences and critics alike.

He has held the title of Music Director of such orchestras as the London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra — drumming up ticket sales and subscriptions, adding a dash of celebrity, and nurturing a love for music in his audiences.

André Previn is the recipient of many awards including 10 Grammy® Awards, 4 Academy Awards® for Best Original Music or Comedy Score and the 1998 Kennedy Center Honors for his contributions to classical music and opera, as well as an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 1996 for his services to music.

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