Andre Previn remembers Jeanette MacDonald

Jeanette MacDonald & Lassie in The Sun Comes Up (1949)
Jeanette MacDonald & Lassie in The Sun Comes Up (1949)

Those who cling to the image of André Previn as a Wunderkind in a turtleneck may be gobsmacked to learn that April 6 marked his 80th birthday. In the course of a multifaceted career, Mr. Previn has distinguished himself as a symphonic conductor, a chamber musician, a jazz pianist, and a composer of symphonic and chamber music, opera, Broadway shows, concert song, popular American song, and Hollywood film scores. To mark this banner year, Mr. Previn has been involved in an exhausting international performance schedule….

Of his modus operandi as a composer, Mr. Previn asserts: “No notebooks or sketches. I just get to work on the first blank page. Even if I throw out the first week’s work, I’ve got to write something down. Once I’m over that hurdle, I write very quickly. It’s a habit that comes from my shabby Hollywood background,” he says with a chuckle, “writing scores under strict deadlines for MGM.”

Mr. Previn wrote his first soundtrack exactly half a century ago. It was for a distinctly minor picture, “The Sun Comes Up.” “Jeanette MacDonald, Lloyd Nolan and Lassie — go figure that billing. In any case, I was a kid at the time and just thrilled to see my name on that screen. After that, MGM knew I could handle their assignments, so I got an endless stream of cheap, fast movies. I like to think I’m writing better music than that now.”