The Corner

Music

Previn, Bernstein, Crenshaw, and More

André Previn with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004 (A.P. Mutter)

On Thursday, André Previn, the great musician, died. I have an appreciation of him here. I was hoping to do a podcast with him. On Tuesday, a rep of his in Britain wrote to say, “Currently André is recovering from a spell in hospital but I am sure he will be happy to have a conversation once he recovers. I will keep you posted.” And here we are writing posthumous tributes.

Well, we wrote many non-posthumous — pre-posthumous? prehumous? — tributes, too. Plus, the guy is “an eternal hotshot,” as I say in my piece today.

I would like to quote one more thing, and offer some links. In those notes today, I say, “There was one other man, in Previn’s general time, with the same range of abilities [as Previn’s]. That, of course, was Leonard Bernstein (1918–90). How were relations between Bernstein and Previn? You know, I don’t know. I could ask around.”

Well, I haven’t asked around. But I would like to single out this: Previn and Bernstein in Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1, recorded with the New York Philharmonic in 1962. Previn is the pianist, Bernstein the conductor. It could have been the other way around.

In fact, you know what would have been a neat concert? The two Shostakovich piano concertos, with Bernstein and Previn alternating roles.

I also want to throw this at you, from 1962: Previn and “His Pals,” as it says on the album cover, jamming on songs from West Side Story, the Bernstein masterpiece. Those “pals” are Shelly Manne (drums) and Red Mitchell (double bass).

Allow me to say one more thing about Previn, before I get off my Previn jag. I wish to emphasize his ease — the ease with which he did everything (his composing, his conducting, his piano playing, etc.). He wasn’t a practicer. He was a player. He showed up, and that’d be it. I have long been accused of analogizing everything to golf, and here I go again:

Harvey Penick, the legendary golf instructor, had many outstanding students, the starriest of whom were Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Once, he described the difference between them.

Before a round, Tom would spend an hour on the practice range, making sure his sand iron went 108 yards, and not 109 or 107. A minute before the tee time, Ben would screech up in a red convertible, grab his bag out of the trunk, and run to the first tee. He’d lace it down the middle. Then, on his way up the fairway, he’d hop a bit, putting on his golf shoes.

André was Crenshaw, in incredible abundance.

Most Popular

U.S.

How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More
Education

George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality

Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin's Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine ... Read More
U.S.

Trump’s Total Culture War

 Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf. As a result, not even former president George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of ... Read More
World

Iran’s Act of War

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is ... Read More