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.

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