He studied at the Giuseppe Verdi Music Conservatory in Turin, and later with Franco Alfano. He began his career as assistant conductor to Vittorio Gui in Florence from 1928 to 1935, and later in Genoa from 1935 to 1936.
He was artistic director of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra from 1936 until 1953, and conducted the Verdi cycle in 1951, to commemorate the composer's 50th death anniversary, and left recordings of Nabucco, Ernani, La battaglia di Legnano, Il trovatore, and Don Carlo. He also conducted at all the major opera houses of Italy, and was principal conductor at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in the 1960s. He was appointed artistic director of the Teatro Regio in Turin in 1970, and later of the Teatro Comunale in Genoa.
His students included the British conductor Meredith Davies.
- "Fernando Previtali". Opera Italiana. 2007-05-23. Archived from the original on 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
- Nicola Berti (2005-02-15). "Fernando Previtali" (in Italian). Città di Adria. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved 2007-09-07.