Previn's Violin Concerto

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Thursday, March 14, 2019

On today’s date in 2002, a new Violin Concerto received its premiere by the Boston Symphony. The soloist was the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, with the new work’s composer, Andre Previn, conducting. Despite his French-sounding first name and his British honorary knighthood, Previn was born in Berlin, he came to the United States in 1939, and became an American citizen in 1943.

Previn’s Violin Concerto has a kind of homecoming in its third movement, subtitled “From a Train in Germany.” Late in 1999, Previn had telephoned a birthday greeting to his manager back in New York while riding on a German train. That call prompted a suggestion that a musical work planned for Boston might reflect that train ride through the country of his birth. The 3rd movement also incorporates a German children’s song suggested by Anne-Sophie Mutter, one that Previn had known as a child in Germany.

Autobiographical inferences throughout the Violin Concerto are also suggested by an inscription from T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” which reads: “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/will be to arrive where we started/and know the place for the first time.” And, as if to underscore the autobiographical interplay of life and art, Mutter and Previn were married on August 1, 2002, five months after the premiere of “their” Concerto.

That marriage (Previn’s fifth) ended four years later when the pair divorced in 2006, citing the 34 year difference in their ages as the cause.