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Andre Previn presents new armchair concerto after blowing out radio host

Members of the Pittsburgh audience at yesterday’s world premiere of Andre Previn’s triple concerto have told us us that the composer needed to be helped on stage and conducted the concert from an armchair.

It is no secret that Previn, 83, has looked increasingly frail in the past year. It is also no secret that he has turned fractious. On Friday, he blew out public radio host, Paul Guggenheimer, calling his questions ‘ridiculous’. Andre sounded bored, self-repetitive, rambling and unfocussed on air. As the interview progressed, he sounded plain offensive.

The interviewer does his best, gentling him along, but Previn sounds as if he couldn’t be bothered. ‘You ask questions that you wouldn’t ask a sick dog,’ he exclaims at one point. You can hear the interview here.

Maybe Andre should think of taking it a bit easier in future.

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  1. Interesting interview, but some of the questions were rather bland. To his credit, Previn did apologize at the end of the interview.

    • He was unprepared, and unprofessional. No excuse for that, or for his abuse of the host who was being careful and courteous.

      • Not sure how one “prepares” for an interview on the radio. I’m not defending his behavior, but he does apologize at the end of the interview, which you should mention in your post, since some might listen only until he calms down again and assume that was the end of it.

        The host was terrific, and very good at handling the rough treatment.

  2. harold braun says:

    Andre Previn can be called many things.What he can`t be called for sure is being unprofessional.He was,and is one of the greatest pros ever in musical business,whether you like his compositions and conducting/or playing or not.You should spare these terms for those who deserve it,maybe for for hyped italian would be opera singers who give up the ghost after ten minutes of real singing on a real opera stage.

    • I could not disagree with you more Mr. Braun. As a conductor myself, the last thing I would do is insult an interviewer. In communities much smaller than Pittsburgh one can run across media representatives who are not as “educated” as others. Therefore, it’s my job to do the educating, and to be courteous about it. Just because Mr. Previn has been a significant part of music history for several decades gives him no right to eviscerate a poor innocent public radio announcer. His comments were, plainly and truly, unprofessional and not at all worthy of the graciousness portrayed by the host.

  3. Daniel Farber says:

    I didn’t hear it the way NL hears it. AP seemed to treat the interviewer with courtesy and forbearance, save for a couple of moments when he seemed to become impatient with the nature of the question. Although it’s difficult to imagine, say, Elliott Carter finding a question about the challenges of composing for the tuba beneath him, AP, who has always been able to wing his composing without much introspection or intellectual engagement, did feel that way. At the end of the interview, he apologized for the few “testy” moments in what was otherwise an amiable conversation, though not a particularly interesting one.

  4. Thomas P says:

    Norman, wait ’til the day nigh comin’ when you’re his age. Previn showed restraint and patience when being asked about his film music, which was so long ago it seemed as irrelevant to me as it did to him. Which reminded me of a similar question put to him when he was awarded the prestigious and well-deserved Glenn Gould Prize a few years back, and he remarked that he hasn’t heard any good film music ‘recently’ (read: since my days at MGM).

    Yes, he might have been unprepared for such wide-ranging and tiresome questions about his life as a child in Germany and his jazz era, and he was snooty and recognised it. I would have liked to have heard more about this particular Triple Cto, And, especially given his shirtiness, I would have loved to have pressed him on composing for tuba or horn (or violin). Their compositional challenges are quite different. Then perhaps we’d really see him ‘blow out’, to use the arcane terminology extant among octogenarians.

    He could learn something about humility and courtesy from you, Norman.

    More importantly, could someone direct me to a link to the Previn Triple Cto?

    • Thomas: As others have pointed out, Andre is a pro. He treated the interview unprofessionally, sounding disinterested from the start and abusing the host on several occasions. If I had been the host and this was the BBC, we would have shut him down for boring the audience or, at the very least, challenged his contentious remarks until he retracted them.

      • Mr Previn evidently got out of bed on the wrong side but he is not at all in the best of health (getting around must be tough when you have such little movement) and has had a long and distinguished career. He surely deserves a bit more respect than is shown by some here. I watched him at close quarters in St Lukes, London very recently and he was relaxed, humorous and most helpful to young Masterclass musicians.
        I am sure he would rather not do interviews in which he is asked the same old boring questions but at least he still does interviews and he did apologize for one or two off-hand responses this time. Why not be generous to him!

      • Thomas P says:

        Mr. Previn is an elderly man and is exhibiting signs of physical and cognitive decline, as a sensitive listener may have gleaned from that anodyne interview. Get off your little pony, Norman; show some respect to a significant contributor to the arts.

        I’m still looking forward to some comments on his composition, the Triple Cto, not that I would want to detract from the celebrity breeze.

        • I think serious discussion about his concerto would be futile at this point. Any possible criticism would be met with comments about Mr. Previn’s physical and cognitive decline, and showing a lack of respect. That’s a shame, as Verdi wrote some of his best stuff at Previn’s age, although I’m guessing he didn’t call anyone sick dogs.

  5. Presumably you intended to say that AP sounded ‘uninterested’ from the start…

  6. D. Schreiber says:

    To my ears, Previn bristled whenever a question required him to think a little, searching memory or using his analytical faculty. He seemed to respond fine when the answers came easily from the top of his mind, but became cranky and obnoxious when they required a little brain power. Unfortunately, he is not accepting his aging gracefully, lashing out at others to cover his own declining powers. I wonder what the quality of his concerto is.

  7. Harold, the man being interviewed was among the rudest, pompous and most ridiculous I have ever heard, regardless of who he is(was). The host was the only professional in the room, Mr. Previn came off as a complete jerk. The host deserves some sort of combat pay for being so gracious to someone so combative and insulting.

  8. Patrick McCarthy says:

    I agree with the comments critical of AP’s attitude to the courteous interviewer. As a GOM he could have taken charge and and given a good interview, but obviously wasn’t bothered. I was disappointed a few years ago when he was quoted in the Radio Times as making ungracious comments about the famous occasion when I ‘rescued’ the TV Prom performance of Carmina Burana at RAH back in 1974. Fortunately the evidence of the quality of my impromptu performance is around on tape and video for people to make up their own minds. However, in compensation, in the intervening years I have been amused by the ups and (mainly) downs of AP’s very public private life…. It is interesting how often outstanding conductors are quoted as wanting to be remembered for their compositions – Klemperer, Furtwangler, Dorati,etc. In AP’s case I would certainly say he is better at conducting and playing the piano than composing. Can anybody remember a tune he wrote?

  9. Mathias Broucek says:

    I’ve heard the story of the RAH Carmina Burana many times but never from the pratagonist. More please, Patrick!

    Sounds like AP wasn’t up to appearing and should have cried-off (or been encouraged to…)

  10. Patrick McCarthy says:

    I am glad that Doug can remember a Previn tune – I will have to check it out!
    Re the 1974 Proms incident, it was much reported at the time and the current Wikipedia entry on myself (PM,Engish conductor and singer – don’t know who wrote it) is accurate as far as it goes. I had spotted Thos Allen, whose work I admired at the time, in the bar and was looking forward to hearing the Prom – LSO and Chorus with AP plus TA, Sheila Armstrong and Gerald English, the last 2 singing their socks off that evening.The 1st half featured a new oboe piece by Gordon Crosse and a sumptuous Tallis Fantasia. Anyway, in the 2nd half TA turned green and collapsed on his chair towards the end of Estuans interius, got up a few minutes later to sing the Wafnas and collapsed again.I was at the front of the arena, and friends of mine encouraged me to pop backstage to see if there was anyone lined up to take over. The rest is history as they say.As the concert was being telerecorded for broadcast a few days later, no-onequite behaved as they might have done under normal concert circumstances. I was literally a couple of weeks into my professional career having just finished at the Guildhall and London Opera Centre. I was certainly asked to sing a few Carminas for a while and have enjoyed the last 38 years singing, teaching it and conducting, mainly in E Anglia. There is a bootleg video of the concert around and I had great pleasure in showing it to my daughters years later so that they could see Daddy with hair. Music lovers of a certain age always tell me that they were actually there but I reckon most of them saw it on the telly. Anyway, we can’t all be Andre Previns and have the Pittsburgh at our disposal but in my humble way I (and many others) strive to do some sort of justice to great music and sometime we succeed or make the audience think we do.And that is what matters

    • Beautiful, Patrick! I’ll put this up as a fresh post.

      • Although I was not watching TV or present at the Prom, I have seen Patrick’s Prom on DVD. It is totally amazing (no not just to see Patrick with hair) but to see how he professionally, calmly and seamlessly carried on in parts that Thomas Allen failed to finish!

        Not only should the performance be noted for Patrick’s priceless performance but to see the looks from the other soloists, choir and not forgetting Mr Previn! (I mean he could have been a crazy stalker!)

        I’ve known Patrick for many years when he was teaching at Colchester Institute Music School and I now sing in two of his Choirs, the Colchester Bach Choir and also the Witham Choral Society.

        Last year, I based a competition around Patrick’s Proms event and winners were announced on my facebook page of (You can read more about what I do with CDs, music and choirs on facebook, twitter @Classical CDs, or email me directly on

        The question was……”In 1974, during a live televised performance of the BBC Proms of Carl Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andre Previn, the baritone soloist, Thomas Allen fainted during his big solo, “Estuans interius”. What happened next?

        You now know the answer!

  11. By the way, I’ve warmed to Mr Previn as a musician but never really warmed to Mr Previn as part of the human race for the reasons already stated. However, I could watch his appearance with Morecambe & Wise on loop.

    Infact, I’ll put it on my facebook page again now!

  12. One cannot blame Mr. Previn too hastily. It is apparent that, in his case, the mind is the second thing to go

    • I AM IN AWE of ANDRE PREVIN having become such a huge fan of everything “Andre Previn” from the 1950s onwards (Jazz, Classical, compositions, on and on..) and have become embarrassingly hooked on to every video clip there is of AP on youtube. The last one of him I see is the 2007? conducting (from a chair) Rachmaninoff Symph 2 with NHK ..his face with the artist’s glow and afterwards you feel the musicians are in “heaven.” OMG I’m listening many times with and w/o the video…brings tears to my eyes and goose bumps all over. His profile (face) is a bit like Mozart’s ..hmmm some past life connection perchance. Re: this thread about the interview; WHERE DOES ONE GET ADVANCED NOTICE OF SUCH MARVELS….where AP will appear or give an interview, etc. I MUST KNOW NOW before he passes. A Google search on it ? And my common sense makes me see the point Eli made on March 27 “Once cannot blame Mr. Previn too hastily. It is apparent.[...]..the mind is the second thing to go.” Sir Previn is such a consummate artist…I would be frustrated and irritable too if my brain powers were in decline and he even more so having had more than half a century of one of the most (if not “the most”) brilliant careers possible in the Western Hemisphere spanning jazz/classical/Hollywood ..composing/conducting..and he’s continuing to compose, I believe. Mr. Lebrecht, please don’t take his commentary personally. .. BLESSINGS TO ALL through the highest level of music of the spheres..[Greetings from a violinist in San Francisco, CA]

      • CORRECTION: In the previous commentary, a small correction to the reference I made to “Mr. Lebrecht” when I should have written “Paul Guggenheimer” as the latter was the interviewer, not Mr. Lebrecht. Cheers, Paula

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