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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
André Previn: Striking the right chord
While mere mortals woo their women with champagne or flowers, he composed a violin concerto for her.
They say opposites attract, but Previn and Mutter, age notwithstanding, have many things in common. Both were born in Germany and both were musical prodigies.
Mutter began her career at 13 as a protegée of the famous conductor, Herbert von Karajan.
Previn's Jewish family fled from Hitler to Los Angeles and he was still at high school when he began composing film scores for MGM.
Champion of British composers
It was to lead to four Oscars for his film adaptations of Gigi, Porgy and Bess, Irma La Douce and My Fair Lady.
But at the height of his Hollywood success, having also established a reputation as a jazz and classical concert pianist, he decided that conducting provided his greatest pleasure.
"I loved it," he said. "It never occurred to me that I might fail."
In 1968, his dream of conducting the London Symphony Orchestra came true. "I couldn't believe my luck," he said.
In his 11 years as principal conductor of the LSO, Previn was a passionate advocate of such British composers as Britten, Walton and Vaughan Williams.
But he also scored a more unlikely success, by attracting a mass audience to his series of music nights with the LSO on BBC Television.
Previn has since been the guest conductor of many of the world's leading orchestras, but in more recent years, has concentrated on composition again.
Not a Beethoven
There was a darkly intense cello sonata for Yo-Yo Ma, and a piano concerto which included a solo part of "horrendous difficulty" to test Vladimir Ashkenazy.
1998 brought another landmark in his career with the premiere of his operatic version of Tennessee Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire. In 1996, the Queen bestowed an honorary knighthood on him.
But Previn is not seeking the immortality of a Beethoven: "I don't compose anything for the next generation," he says.
"I care what people think of it now and I don't care what they think of it in a hundred years. I just want people to play it."
He told unsuspecting listeners: "I heard her and admired her many many times before I had the pleasure of making records with her."
In a sweat
Anne-Sophie Mutter's previous marriage was also to a much older man, a lawyer, Detlef Wunderlich, 27 years her senior, with whom she had two children. He died of cancer seven years ago.
The father of nine children, André Previn says he is "the best of friends" with all his ex-wives: a nightclub singer, Betty Bennett; the singer-songwriter Dory Previn; the film actress Mia Farrow; and his fourth wife, a diplomat's daughter, Heather Sneddon.
But Previn's evident appeal to women disguises a man whose composure can easily be undermined, or so he claims.
On the podium, though, he is in command. As one critic observed recently, Previn can still "whip up an emotional storm that belies his genteel, restrained baton manner," while Anne-Sophie Mutter once said: "I have too much fire to ever be burnt out."
André Previn's ex-wife Heather arrived at the conclusion: "The music is the mistress. All these talented people are driven; they don't have a choice really."
Rather late in the day, it may be that André Previn has found the woman who embodies all his passions.
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