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Obituary: André Previn – ‘Oscar-winning composer who was a familiar presence on British TV’

André Previn at the BBC in 2012. Photo: Steve Bowbrick/Wikimedia André Previn at the BBC in 2012. Photo: Steve Bowbrick/Wikimedia

For British audiences of a certain age, André Previn will be remembered as “Mr Preview”, the hapless conductor who tried, and failed, to get Eric Morecambe to play Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1971 Morecambe and Wise Christmas television special.

A four-times Oscar winner, recipient of 10 Grammy awards and nominated for a Tony in 1970 for Coco, his Katharine Hepburn-starring musical with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Previn was a pianist, composer and conductor who moved between Broadway, Hollywood, classical music and jazz with effortless ease.

Already something of a celebrity in the US, he became a familiar presence on British television with London Weekend Television’s Meet André Previn in 1969 and throughout the following decade with his eponymous Music Night (1973-76).

Previn served as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1968-79.

His collaboration with playwright Ronald Harwood and lyricist Johnny Mercer on a musical version of JB Priestley’s The Good Companions was seen at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1974, with a cast led by John Mills and Judi Dench.

His operas included an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire – first staged by the San Francisco Opera in 1998 and seen in a semi-staged performance by the LSO at the Barbican in 2003 – and Brief Encounter, with a libretto by the writer and director John Caird, at Houston Grand Opera in 2009.

André George Previn was born on April 6, 1929, and died on February 28, aged 89.

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