The death of André Previn has been announced. The conductor, pianist and composer, arguably best known in the UK from his time as the charismatic principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, died at home in Manhatten this morning, aged 89. He will be remembered both as an artist of rare versatility and as one of music's most natural communicators.
Born in Berlin, but a naturalised US citizen from the early 1940s after moving to Los Angeles as a child, Previn displayed his versatility as a musician from a young age – his earliest teachers included the composers Marcel Dupré and Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco and, later, the conductor Pierre Monteux. With an uncle working at Universal Studios, he soon found work arranging and composing for films, and would go on to win four Academy Awards, for Gigi (1959), Porgy and Bess (1960), Irma La Douce (1964) and My Fair Lady (1965).
Previn's conducting career, meanwhile, flourished on both sides of the Atlantic. In England, he was principal conductor of, famously, the London Symphony Orchestra from 1968-79 and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985-88, while in the US, he was music director of the Houston Symphony from 1967-9, the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1976-84 and the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1985-9.
In both his LSO and Pittsburgh positions, Previn enjoyed a strong relationship with the TV cameras, not least as the star of André Previn's Music Night on the BBC. He also, perhaps most famously of all, starred on the Morecambe and Wise show where, as the exasperated conductor 'Andrew Preview', he tried to guide Eric Morecambe throught the opening bars of Grieg's Piano Concerto.
André Previn's list of recordings is as long as it is distinguished, and includes acclaimed versions of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F in which he conducted the orchestra from the piano keyboard.
Though he conducted less frequently in his later years, Previn continued to compose, including, in 1998, his opera A Streetcar Named Desire. He was married five times, the last of which was to the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, for whom he wrote a concerto in 2003.