Ailing Seiji Ozawa cancels summer return to Tanglewood

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LENOX — Health setbacks have forced former Boston Symphony Music Director Seiji Ozawa to cancel his keenly anticipated return to Tanglewood this summer.

The 80-year-old BSO laureate conductor, who led the orchestra for 29 years until he stepped down in 2002, has been forced to postpone travel abroad from his home in Japan on the advice of his doctor, according to an announcement Thursday.

Lack of physical strength was cited as the major reason following his stay in Europe last month that included performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and at the institute he founded, the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland.

Because of overwork, Ozawa developed a fever that resulted in weight loss, the BSO announcement stated. During his return to Japan early this month, he continued "with another demanding period of work, which further weakened his immune system," the announcement noted.

Ozawa's decision to cancel his two-week trip to the Berkshires in July followed extensive discussions with his doctors, family and orchestra officials. He will rest during the next few months with a goal of regaining his physical strength.

"I am very, very sad and sorry that I will have to miss this summer's Tanglewood," Ozawa wrote in a prepared statement. "I miss the Ground of Tanglewood, all my old colleagues and friends and being in our house in West Stockbridge and playing tennis there."

Ozawa, in frail health during the past few years including a bout with cancer, emphasized that he eagerly anticipates returning to Tanglewood soon.

He was slated to conduct a curtain-raiser, Beethoven's Egmont Overture, at the BSO's July 9 concert, preceded on July 5 by a string ensemble performance by young musicians of his international academy.

Those performers will be at Tanglewood as scheduled for the concert that also includes members of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra of advanced young professionals and students.

In a statement, BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe wrote: "I know that Seiji is very disappointed not to be able to join us this summer at Tanglewood, as he was so very much looking forward to returning to the festival and working with his beloved Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Music Center, introducing us all to his treasured Swiss Academy, and reconnecting with the many audience members who have supported him so passionately over the years."

"All of us at the BSO will miss Seiji's presence this summer," Volpe added, "but we understand that he has to follow his doctors' advice to take the time needed to recover his strength after a busy work schedule in Europe and Japan in April and early May. We wish Seiji a speedy recovery and look forward to his return to Tanglewood in future seasons."

Ozawa's close connection to the orchestra's summer home goes back to 1960, when he was 24 and studying conducting at the Berkshire Music Center, as it was then called. That summer, he won the prestigious Koussevitzsky Prize as outstanding young conductor. He appeared frequently leading the BSO and serving for four summers as Tanglewood's artistic director starting in 1970.

Before he was appointed the orchestra's music director in 1973, he had held similar positions with the Toronto and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras as well as at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago.

Last Dec. 6, Ozawa was among the artists celebrated at the annual Kennedy Center Honors televised later that month by CBS.

In February, he won his first Grammy for best opera recording, a performance of Maurice Ravel's "L'Enfant et Les Sortileges" ("The Child and the Spells") in August 2013 in Matsumoto, Japan, by the Saito Kinen Orchestra.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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