Previn: Owls

Previn: Owls
© Lillian Birnbaum
On 2 October, James Levine and the Boston Symphony premiere André Previn’s new work, Owls. The 15-minute concert opener was commissioned by the BSO as a pastoral, serene work.

Owls’ opening theme, featuring a pair of flutes, evokes the mysteries of the wilderness, and was inspired at least in thought, as Previn describes, by the woods behind his childhood home in England: “the 15 acres of woods were filled with animals, where more often than not, we would see the animals in pairs: pairs of deer, pairs of squirrels, and in one instance a pair of baby owls.”

According to Previn, he is essentially “a conservative composer.” A friend of his once said to him, in reference to Previn’s compositions, “a remarkable thing about your music is you merely point out dissonance, then you resolve to consonance.” This interplay between dissonance and consonance is a striking element of Previn’s music. Often balancing lush tonal melodies and consonant harmonies with polytonal textures and dissonance, Previn’s music is a gratifying blend of both sides of the harmonic coin. In Owls, Previn presents both sides with characteristic ease.