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Andre Previn - The Great Recordings - The LSO Years 1971-1980

Previn,Andre
Release Date: 05/19/2009 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 67969  
Composer:  Olivier MessiaenClaude DebussySergei RachmaninovMaurice Ravel,   ... 
Performer:  Michel BéroffJeanne LoriodPeter LloydJohn Shirley-Quirk,   ... 
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony ChorusSt. Clement Danes Grammar School Boys Choir
Number of Discs: 10 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 12 Hours 40 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Andreas Ludwig Priwin – now known to the world as André Previn - was born in Berlin on 6 April 1929. He spent his early years in the USA and specifically in California.

He is here caught during his second UK heyday. The first one on the classical recording front was with the LSO on the RCA label. The crop he made during the late 1960s until the migration to EMI delivered enough recordings to provide another set from the BMG coffers if only they could see the case for it. It was with RCA that he launched his Rachmaninov renaissance and in parallel - from 1967 onwards - brought out a young man's RVW symphonies to vie with EMI's grand old man, Boult. That said, the Previn RCA set holds up wonderfully well, even now. In
Read more fact after the LSO years he made some even better-sounding and equally sensitive RVW recordings with the RPO and Telarc. They were recently reissued by that company in a twofer.

In the UK Andre Previn was part of a media frenzy from 1968 into the mid-1970s. He cut a glamorous and youthful figure beside the ranks of stolid Brits. Here was this long-haired young American with Broadway and Hollywood connections suddenly heading the London Symphony Orchestra. What was happening? He pulls out of the hat one of the best recordings ever of Walton's First Symphony. RCA record the late romantics with him and the LPs sell well. His Rachmaninov 2 (albeit cut) and 3 do better than respectably. He takes a shine to RVW's symphonies and, would you believe it, these are fresh and sensitive, eager and spiritual readings, violent and vibrant too. He has his own series on BBC TV with the LSO and even includes the Korngold violin concerto and the RVW Tuba concerto. He appears on BBCTV's Morecambe and Wise show bemused but still conducting the LSO while Eric Morecambe makes a few feints at starting the Grieg Piano Concerto. He has arrived! EMI Classics take him up and he drops RCA. EMI do well by him. He delivers hit after hit. All the Rach symphonies (No. 2 complete in a starrily languorous reading which now seems a mite too self-indulgent though still sells as one of the classics of the catalogue) and the Rach piano concertos with Ashkenazy. He records Walton's Belshazzar - a sonic spectacular with a jazzy tendency which is meat and potatoes to Previn as also is his Lambert Rio Grande. Soon there is also a celebrated Carmina Burana. His Walton Second Symphony competes with Szell on CBS and is vividly recorded even if Previn can do little to make the work fly.

During his time with RCA Previn had recorded all nine Vaughan Williams symphonies although unlike Boult he did not venture much further. While Boult recorded Job, Dona Nobis Pacem and Pilgrim's Progress and much else, Previn steered clear of these. This transatlantic upstart was seen as vying directly with the superficially starchy Boult. Boult was given sumptuous sound by EMI but his imaginative reach and sense of forward movement was beginning to fade.

The present set reflects a small sampling of the many LPs he produced for EMI after he had migrated from RCA. In those days this was a technically astute move as RCA LPs of the early 1970s were sometimes of lesser sound quality. EMI by contrast had technical and artistic staff of the highest eminence. The elder company also correctly read the public interest in this young and communicative conductor with a mane of long hair, flares and flowery shirts. Here was an inspired communicator with a touch of Bernstein and Stokowski about him. He made André Previn's Music Night something of a television fixture for a wider public than the usual stuffy classical crowd. The booklet note by Andrew Stewart deals with this aspect as well as reminding us of Previn’s compositional activities. These can be found largely on DG - another box there, I wonder?

EMI have here provided a very economical way of adding vintage Previn recordings to your collection. His Turangalila was an early recording of the work, shaking off the distant hegemony of the ancient Vega LP set but more especially challenging the Ozawa version which had long held sway on Previn’s old label, RCA. The playing is eruptively technicolour and can stand comparison with much more modern versions. The ondes martinot does perhaps sound a little literal like a dyspeptic swanee whistle. Perhaps the bass is not quite as squat and extended as you would get from a more modern digital effort such as from Chung on DG or even from Rattle on a later EMI. Still the recording is wonderfully enjoyable and the mystery and sensuality of Turangalila are vividly put across.

There’s more French music on the second disc: Debussy. This reproduces the first EMI digital recording including, from those 1979 sessions, the Prélude and Images. These performances are a blessed caress - a cool breeze. The stereo soundstage is very believable and vivid. The velvet impact of the romping strings in Fêtes, not to mention the commanding brass and voluptuous upward slash of the harp within the first minute of Fête says it all. Some Decca-style spotlighting is going on here but the results are delicious.

CD 3 has another hallmark Previn recording: Rachmaninov 2. Hearing it again I am sure I have underestimated it having previously been disparaging of what I saw as its rose-water sentimentality. It is a plush analogue recording true enough but it now seems heavily luxurious and in the case of the scherzo propulsive and exciting. The analogue hiss is inescapable but soon sinks from perception as the music engages. The recording is a great one and has the regal advantage of having been made not at Abbey Road but at the Kingsway Hall. Give me Cura, Sanderling, Rozhdestvensky and Svetlanov but this is still grand music-making. It's also significant as the first recording of the complete score. Previn had recorded it in the 1960s for RCA but it was in the cut version. Previn's Bolero is not the quickest but it is idiomatic and is spaciously recorded.

Previn and the LSO were often stunning in Russian music as I have commented in reviewing his very fine The Bells on EMI Classics. That’s also true of this Shostakovich 8. The brass benches in particular shone brightly for him, catching the coal black quality of the Soviet brass if not quite their primeval bray. Even so the strings sound gruntingly visceral in the third movement. The earth ruptures and heaves catastrophically for the Largo. The Allegretto finale combines the grotesque and a sense of tragedy. For strong contrast we get Prokofiev's Classical in a fast and etch-pointed performance. It dances, sways and bubbles joyously. The Larghetto is lovingly done – a dignified interpretation. The pinpoint coordination and accuracy of the orchestra is a joy to hear.

CD 5 comprises a packed deep and generous selection of 25 tracks from Previn and the LSO's complete Romeo and Juliet. It's all very pointed and precise yet has not lost that liberation of spirit that keeps such music life-enhancing. The Dance with Mandolins has a peppery and jerky zaniness. Juliet with Friar Laurence is all misty mystery and sweet expectation. Propulsion is not in short supply for Tybalt and Mercutio fight and the characters in the brass benches make themselves felt in the most welcome way possible. Even in the skeletally cantabile Death of Juliet the strings hold their secure intonation and steadiness.

Previn's way with ballet music is confident and well-judged. His three complete Tchaikovsky ballets are voluptuous yet light on their toes. The sound for the six movements each from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty are matched with ten movements from Nutcracker. I still enjoy Rozhdestvensky and the BBCSO in their early 1980s LP recording - would that that were easily available now. Svetlanov is also dependably inspired in such music. This is however great stuff. The solo moments are done with unfailing charm, élan and most of all a sort of hushed magic to match the voluptuous grand tableaux.

CD 7 reminds us what a superb job Previn did with Walton's Belshazzar. Remember the original SAN LP series with its gatefold sleeve. I was forcefully reminded of again of Walton's astonishing brilliance recently when reviewing Kathryn Stott's Dutton CD of the Walton Sinfonia Concertante. It is heard here in spades again in Belshazzar. John Shirley-Quirk, caught at his meridian, is glorious. So are the massed London Symphony Chorus – surely super-augmented for the occasion - sounding like a great host. In this respect Ormandy's number-challenged choir in his Sony version is well and truly bested. Otherwise Ormandy produced a superb Belshazzar for Sony. Previn’s brass are supreme and the cross-cutting brass groups are magnificent in the paeans to the various pagan gods. In fact Walton rather struck the reefs in making the invention so bright-eyed for those unchristian gods that he struggled to make the Hebrew slaves’ triumph sound as overwhelming as it should. The London Symphony choir must have been coached to within an inch of its life and one can almost feel Previn's eyes holding the choir in a steely grip. The singing is eager, alive with total concentration and bristling with spontaneity. The Kingsway Hall has rarely sounded so magnificent. I had forgotten how good this Belshazzar is: a triumph of the artists’ and recording team's art. Once again the craftsmanship is down to EMI's technical aristocracy in the shape of the two Christophers: Bishop and Parker. This Previn Belshazzar defines exuberance. No wonder someone thought of the same forces for Orff's Carmina Burana. In this work Walton slashed the temple curtain on the Victorian choral tradition once and for all. It's one of those recordings where you expect a burst of applause. There is none but you can ‘hear’ it in your head.

After Belshazzar we get a dignified, virile and clear Enigma and a serene and caressing Greensleeves as an echo of Previn’s RCA recordings of the complete RVW symphonies. The latter is from 1971 and the former from 1978.

Previn's 1973 Planets was an audio byword. It sold and sold in a world crammed with good Planets including my favoured George Hurst on a Contour LP awaiting CD revival and a Handley reading reissued on Regis. Previn's is a ripe and fantastical Planets. Listen to that crump of the drums and brass at the very start of Jupiter.

Previn's glass and silver-etched Grimes interludes and Passacaglia were also ikons of the analogue catalogue and with astutely ineluctable reasoning too. Their power is undimmed. Do try the fine passacaglia. It always had a symphonic momentum and weight yet I wonder how many people went on to play it after the four interludes were over. The original Britten coupling was the Sinfonia da Requiem; that too was sensational.

And so to disc 9 where Previn and his forces trooped back to the Kingsway Hall for Carmina Burana to capture that violet lush and lavishly detailed sound. The choruses have been coached to a precise T by a composer whose music we hear nothing of now. Arthur Oldham wrote much including Chinese Lyrics and Psalms in Time of War. The boys’ choir was trained by Audrey Clifford. It's a bigger sound than Kegel, Smetacek (Supraphon) and, before that, Jochum secured but the performance romps with life and seductive sensuous juice. A good track to sample for the magnificence of brass and choral tone is Were du werlt alle min. Whatever you may think of Carmina Burana and its two Trionfi companions it has visceral power - rhythm over melody. It is a great passage of arms and unfailingly brings the house down. The nasal rasp in the men's voices is a joy to hear. The bass drum and the tuba groan in In taberna – glorious! The choirs are fully equal to – in fact trounce – the tongue-twisting challenges of this score.

After this great blast of rhythmic power we move to the dignified address of Barber's Adagio and look back to Previn’s America and indeed to at least one of Previn's music night concerts on the BBCTV. The Barber is tender and probing, poignant and exploratory, feeling its way towards the apex of emotional surging expression at 6:33. it then curves down into meditation – a transatlantic Tallis.

The final disc is all Gershwin. The recordings are from 1971 but topped up to make 76:01 with the 1980 recording of the Cuban Overture. Previn like Bernstein is here both pianist and conductor. The LSO ape the manner and sound of an American orchestra letting its hair down. Gervase de Peyer is the slinky oily upwards-striking clarinet in Rhapsody in Blue. The rest is similarly idiomatic though now find a little of these works goes a long way.

In short this set, which comes in a clamshell cardboard case and individual sleeves for each disc, brilliantly represents the always sincere Previn. The recordings have come up as fresh as proverbial paint.

- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Turangalîla-Symphonie by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Michel Béroff (Piano), Jeanne Loriod (Ondes Martenot)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946-1948; France 
2.
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Peter Lloyd (Flute)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1892-1894; France 
3.
Images for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905-1912; France 
4.
Nocturnes (3) for Orchestra by Claude Debussy
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897-1899; France 
5.
Symphony no 2 in E minor, Op. 27 by Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1907; Russia 
6.
Boléro by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; France 
7.
Symphony no 8 in C minor, Op. 65 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USSR 
8.
Symphony no 1 in D major, Op. 25 "Classical" by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; Russia 
9.
Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935-1936; Paris, France 
10.
Swan Lake, Op. 20: Act 2 - Scène by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; Russia 
11.
Swan Lake, Op. 20: no 2, Act 1 - Valse by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; Russia 
12.
Swan Lake, Op. 20: no 13, Act 2 - Danses des cygnes - Allegro moderato by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; Russia 
13.
Swan Lake, Op. 20: no 13, Act 2 - Danses des cygnes - Andante non troppo by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; Russia 
14.
Swan Lake, Op. 20: no 20b, Act 3 - Danse hongroise by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; Russia 
15.
Swan Lake, Op. 20: no 21, Act 3 - Danse espagnole by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1876; Russia 
16.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: no 9a, Act 1 - Pas d'action "'Rose' Adagio" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
17.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: no 25, Act 3 - Pas de caractère, Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
18.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: no 18, Act 2 - Panorama by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
19.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: no 7, Act 1 - Valse by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
20.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: no 28, Act 3 - Pas de deux by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
21.
Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66: no 30, Finale et Apothéose by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888-1889; Russia 
22.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 1a, Act 1 - Miniature Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
23.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 2, Act 1 - March of the Wooden Soldiers by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
24.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 12b, Act 2 - Arabian Dance "Coffee" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
25.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 12c, Act 2 - Chinese Dance "Tea" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
26.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 12d, Act 2 - Russian Dance "Trepak" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
27.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 12e, Act 2 - Dance of the Flutes "Toy Trumpets" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
28.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 14a, Act 2 - Pas de deux by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
29.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 14b, Act 2 - Tarantella by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
30.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 14c, Act 2 - Variation II, Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
31.
Nutcracker, Op. 71: no 15, Act 2 - Final Waltz and Apotheosis by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 
32.
Belshazzar's Feast by Sir William Walton
Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk (Baritone)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930-1931; England 
33.
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma" by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898-1899; England 
34.
Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; England 
35.
The Planets, Op. 32/H 125 by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1916; England 
36.
Peter Grimes: Sea Interludes (4), Op. 33a by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944-1945; England 
37.
Peter Grimes: Passacaglia, Op. 33b by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; England 
38.
Carmina burana by Carl Orff
Performer:  Gerald English (Tenor), Thomas Allen (Baritone), Sheila Armstrong (Soprano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus,  St. Clement Danes Grammar School Boys Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Germany 
39.
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Rome, Italy 
40.
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
Performer:  André Previn (Piano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 
41.
An American in Paris by George Gershwin
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; USA 
42.
Concerto for Piano in F major by George Gershwin
Performer:  André Previn (Piano)
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; USA 
43.
Cuban Overture by George Gershwin
Conductor:  André Previn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; USA 

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