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PERSONAL PLEASURES

Head of the Household : When Conductor Andre Previn Wants to Relax, He Joins the World of Routines Laid Down by the True Boss Around the Home, His Son, Lukas

May 04, 1986|ANDRE PREVIN

"I am in a profession that keeps no regular hours and that is peripatetic enough to rival a professional pi lot's. So I treasure my time at home, and my idea of a holiday is to unpack. Brochures extolling the virtues of resort hotels ('Two Saunas! Two Discos!') fill me with dread. And while I have certainly pursued various hobbies and interests throughout my life, nothing comes close to the joy I feel when I spend time at home with my 2-year-old son, Lukas. For the sake of clarity I must explain that Lukas is the name on his birth certificate, and my wife and I do call him by that official title during those moments when we attempt authority, but for the rest of the day he is Chubbs. By now he is tall and slim, but when he was born he was definitely more Chubbs than Lukas, and the endearment stuck. Obviously, it is a nickname not slated for a lifetime, and within a few years it will have been relegated to nostalgia, but right now it is firmly attached to him.

I am often asked whether Chubbs is displaying any musical tendencies. Well, he loves listening. He often requests that I play the piano for him, after which he wants his turn at the keyboard, and he frequents my rehearsals, recordings and afternoon concerts. His tastes in music are definitely forming, as was proven one evening a few weeks ago. After dinner, Chubbs invariably wants the following routine: to go into my study with me, close the door behind us, select a tape to listen to and then crawl around the floor with small wooden cars and fire engines. The selection process is serious business for him; since he, unfortunately, has mastered the mechanics of the tape recorder, he likes to choose and put on the piece in question by himself. For a while 'Teddy Bear's Picnic' was a clear winner, but it was rather quickly replaced in his affections by certain movements of various Haydn symphonies and, most of all, by the slow movement of the G Major Violin Concerto of Mozart. That particular melody he wants every night, and it makes him forget to push his favorite car around the carpet. One night I remembered that a new tape had come in the post--a collection of works by an experimental music group in Paris. 'Want to hear a new tape, Chubbs?' I asked, and my small son nodded vigorously. I started the machine, and the room filled with the supposed music of the future: squeaks, clanks, whistles, groans and metallic smashes. Lukas was riveted for about 30 seconds. Then, with wide, worried eyes, he announced 'No!' and went over to the tape recorder and kicked it with all his might. It took instant Mozart and a gumdrop to restore his tranquillity. My adoration for him knew no bounds.

The fact that small children prefer unwavering routine interests me a lot. Early mornings are a good example in our house. The 2-year-old head of the house awakens around 6. He sleeps in his room, which adjoins ours. He begins to call out, softly, 'Dada,' which stirs Heather and me into consciousness. Chubbs is no fool: He calls me right away without even trying it on with my wife. He knows full well who the sucker in the family is, and who will give in the quickest. For a musician, 6 in the morning is a faintly alien concept. But when Chubbs calls, I am actually quite pleased. I put on my robe and go in to him. 'Good morning, Dada, can we have cup of tea, please?' and his unchanging routine has gone into gear. We go downstairs to the kitchen, and he watches solemnly while I prepare three cups of tea, his being three-quarters milk. We trudge back upstairs, I stuff him into our bed, he kisses Heather, and I put on a videocassette of Bugs Bunny. There he lies, between his parents, sipping his drink, watching cartoons and holding one hand or the other--the perfect small sybarite. When it comes to raising a child, I will opt for security rather than discipline every time.

Lukas has made several trips to Los Angeles by now. As of last October, we have been staying in our new house. The sunshine amazes him. He has been quite used to the fact that, preparatory to going outside, he has had to put on the full British outdoor outfit: Wellington boots, muffler, mittens, waterproof puffy jacket and woolen hat. By the time I take his hand to begin our daily promenade around the grounds, I feel as if I were father to an ambulatory clothes closet.

Here, in our other home, things are dramatically different. When Chubbs wants to play outside, he opens the door and steps into the sunshine, possibly barefoot, probably in a T-shirt. He has just about mastered swimming and prefers wearing a white hat and goggles in the pool, which makes him look both raffish and indolent. Disneyland was a revelation (to Heather and me as well), and his joy in flying in a blue Dumbo, seated between us, was total and complete.

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