André Previn's Last Concerto, for Orchestra

André Previn's Last Concerto, for Orchestra
André Previn
© Lillian Birnbaum
For me, music has to be an emotion…
— André Previn, NewMusicBox


Like few before him, André Previn was the consummate musician. A celebrated conductor, pianist, and chamber musician, his skills as a composer matched these talents without question.

In 2016, the Kalamazoo Symphony commissioned Previn to compose a work for its 100th anniversary, to be premiered during 2020-21 season. Previn, looking forward to writing for Kalamazoo, said, “I’m quite excited to be able to use such a sizeable orchestra.” After the pandemic delayed the premiere, the Kalamazoo Symphony and music director Julian Kuerti will give the first performance of Previn’s final concerto, his Concerto for Orchestra, on June 4, 2022, concluding the orchestra’s 2021-22 season.

“We are honored and excited about this amazing commissioning opportunity,” said Peter H. Gistelinck, who was the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra's president in 2016, announcing the commission. “Maestro Previn, honored with four Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards and The Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, is one of the most amazing, versatile, and talented musicians of our time and the fact that he accepted to write a vast work for our orchestra that features our wonderful musicians as soloists, is extremely special and exciting.”

Opening in a pastoral style, the concerto’s first movement plays with the establishment and development of motifs in quickly altering meters and rhythms. It by no means an academic exercise, but typically for Previn, it is emotionally engaging, returning to pastoral ideas throughout the movement. The second movement, melodic and generally quiet, is called “Duets” and comprises actual duets as well as duets between sections. The somber and melodically sentimental third movement, “Remember,” leads into the Finale, packed with several exciting gear shifts: a short brass statement; a section that resembles a Bachian concerto grosso in style, texture and sound; a slow introspective section; and a brisk climax to finish.

The Concerto joins other purely orchestral works by the late composer, including Principals (1980), Diversions (1999), Owls (2008), Can Spring be Far Behind? (2016), and Almost an Overture (2017).

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
Julian Kuerti, conductor
Miller Auditorium
Kalamazoo, MI
Info and tickets

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