It is hard for us to realize now how selective the western take on Rachmaninov's output was when Previn began playing the composer's works. He made it quite clear when he started recording for EMI in the early 1970s that he had to revisit the epic symphony without the cuts he had made. This was customary at the time, especially for his first London Symphony Orchestra recording of the work for RCA back in 1966. The piano concertos were already well established, of course: Previn started out by recording the less-often-played First and Fourth Concertos with Leonard Pennario some eight years before his celebrated Decca performance with Vladimir Ashkenazy. But wider audiences in Britain were certainly less familiar with the work Rachmaninov himself held dearest, the stunning choral symphony The Bells, when Previn gave its Proms premiere in July 1973.
By the mid-1970s, Previn's career as a television animator for music was in full swing. André Previn's Music Night never patronized the audience, and the range of far from basic repertoire was showcased on two LPs. The Prokofiev Lieutenant Kijé suite is taken from a Music Night before and audience at Croydon's Fairfield Hall, much admired by sound engineers for the necessary 'dirt' in the sound. It also included a razor-sharp performance of the dazzling Third Piano Concerto led by its greatest interpreter after the composer himself, William Kapell and Martha Argerich.
© David Nice/ICA (extraits)
BBC Proms, 1981