André Previn (1929-2019) was a true renaissance man, making his mark in the worlds of jazz, classical, film, and stage. A composer, pianist, and conductor, the German-born Previn won four Academy Awards as well as ten competitive Grammys; he led orchestras including the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, and the Oslo Philharmonic. He scored classic Hollywood films, co-wrote the Broadway musical Coco for Katharine Hepburn, composed opera versions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Brief Encounter, and with then-wife Dory penned the smash hit "(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls" for Dionne Warwick. In 2018, Sony Classical released The Classic André Previn, a 55-CD mega-set collecting his complete RCA and Columbia classical albums. (Alas, the box eliminated his jazz and pop recordings for those labels, many of which remain unavailable in the digital domain and are worthy of reappraisal.) Now, that box is being followed up by an even more expansive set, courtesy of Warner Classics.
This Friday, April 23, the label will release The Warner Edition: Complete HMV and Teldec Recordings, a whopping 96-disc celebration of his art collecting albums originally released between 1971 and 1987. (The Sony box set features recordings mainly from 1960-1972, but as the eclectic Previn maintained many label associations until the end of his life, it ultimately spans 1960-1995.) His tenure with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) between 1968 and 1979 earned Previn his classical bona fides, particularly with British, French, and Russian repertoire, and his command of the orchestra is on full display in this collection. In addition to the LSO, the set also has renowned sessions with the Pittsburgh and Chicago Symphonies as well as the Wiener Philharmoniker.
Per information made public by Warner Classics, composers featured prominently in the box include:
- France: Berlioz, Chausson, Debussy, Duparc, Messiaen, Poulenc, Ravel, Saint-Saëns
- Germany & Austria: Beethoven, Brahms, Bruch, Goldmark, Haydn, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Orff, Strauss
- Russia: Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky
- Central, Eastern, Northern & Southern Europe: Bartók, Dvorák, Rodrigo, Sibelius
- Britain & America: Britten, Elgar, Gershwin, Joplin, Walton
Itzhak Perlman (b. 1945) is featured on eight discs in The Warner Edition, the most of any soloist. Other notable instrumental soloists include Michel Béroff, Kyung-Wha Chung, Jean-Philippe Collard, Nigel Kennedy, Jeanne Loriod, Radu Lupu, Simon Preston, Angel Romero, Ravi Shankar, and Paul Tortelier. Among the vocalists represented are Sir Thomas Allen, Elly Ameling, Dame Janet Baker, Kathleen Battle, Margaret Price, Samuel Ramey, and Anneliese Rothenberger. Previn's third wife, Mia Farrow, even shows up to narrate Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf in a 1973 HMV album.
The Warner Edition includes the audio documentary André Previn - A Memoir as a bonus disc (CD 96). Produced and narrated by historian Jon Tolansky, it features interviews with the late Previn plus members of the LSO and playwright Tom Stoppard. (Previn composed and conducted the music for Stoppard's sprawling 1977 play Every Good Boy Deserves Favour which was written for six actors and a full orchestra. The play was recorded with stars Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Ian Richardson by RCA Red Seal and is included on the Classic André Previn box.) Previn's jazz recordings were made concurrently with his classical recordings, and a small selection of jazz repertoire with him as pianist also appears on this massive collection. Nine of the albums have been newly remastered for this set while the others are derived from the most recent masterings.
If you're tempted to explore the work of one of the twentieth century's most fascinating cultural titans, the box is due in just a few short days on April 23. Links are up now for pre-order at Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada, though only Amazon U.K. is currently accepting orders. U.K.-based Presto Music is also carrying the box set at this link. You'll find the complete list of contents below!
Mmmm, judging from the back cover listings, each disc replicates the original's without any extras. They could have combined two releases in one cd and made it more manageable (and less expensive).
Raymond Clarke says
Vince, the idea is to provide the original artwork for each release, and if two LPs are combined on to a single CD, some of the artwork will be missing (though Messiaen's Turangalila-Symphonie, a 2LP set issued in 1978, is being issued as a single CD). Everything that Previn recorded is included, even the extract from a Gershwin rehearsal that was issued on an EMI sampler LP, so no 'extras' are available. You say that would like the package to be less expensive, but surely this is already enough of a bargain? When Previn's LPs were being released as full-price ASD issues at the end of the 1970s, the cost of each LP was £5.40, which meant that this collection would have cost well over £500 over 40 years ago. In real terms, £500 in the late 1970s is equivalent to at least £2000 nowadays, probably more. Yet in 2021 the collection is on sale for less than a tenth of the 1979 price for buying the same recordings. So how can you reasonably complain that it's too expensive?