I heard an interview today with Andre Previn, conducted by a local interviewer who is excellent at drawing out his guest with perceptive questions. Previn made me gasp, a word I’ve learned to avoid in literary contexts for overuse and excessive drama. But I clearly gasped, after Previn snapped, “These questions are ridiculous.”
They simply were not ridiculous, but very pertinent and well-considered. For the past month Paul Gugenheimer has begun a daily show on our new NPR station called “Essential Pittsburgh,” and he lives up to the reasoned, astute interviews made famous by Robert Siegel and others on the national NPR shows.
When gugenheimer turned to Previn’s biographical material and asked what memories he had of his first 8 years in Germany under the Nazi party, Previn responded, “That’s a question you wouldn’t ask a sick dog. What’s the purpose of asking that?”
Gugenheimer never wavered—not a single gasp. He expressed such control and never leaked any irritation with Previn’s reactions. Smoothly he explained why he thought the question was relevant. He displayed such grace and class.
By the end of the interview, Previn must have realized how out-of-line he’d been and how out-classed. He said, “I’m sorry if I snapped at you. I, well, I didn’t understand the questions.”
Gugenheimer absolved him of any need to apologize, saying that He’d enjoyed interviewing him.
Even though my husband and I had already pledged twice to our local NPR station since September, we called again and pledged in honor of the eloquent, magnanimous Paul Gugenheimer. We won’t be spending any money on PSO concerts that feature the small-minded, ill-tempered, pompous Previn.
Authors, like musicians, can have their heads turned by success. Being grateful and aware of early struggles, a writer or composer doesn’t just show a generosity and great-heartedness of spirit, a self-actualization, but a kind of practicality, as well. Unpleasant and insulting reactions don’t attract us to a celebrity. The famous Andre Previn appeared so small today, while the local unknown, Paul Gugenheimer, just towered.