Symphony conductor to miss Europe tour due to bypass surgery

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Bypass surgery will prevent conductor Sir Andrew Davis from leading the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on its imminent European tour, but the shows go on. Conductor Leonard Slatkin will replace Sir Andrew.


The PSO's Sir Andrew Davis.
Click photo for larger image.

Yesterday, the PSO and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, for which Sir Andrew is artistic adviser and music director, respectively, announced that the British maestro must undergo arterial surgery on Tuesday in Chicago.

"He has had some discomfort in his left leg for some time and this procedure will take care of it," said Magda Krance, spokeswoman for the Lyric. "It needed to get done."

Sir Andrew, 62, will receive a femoral-popliteal artery bypass in his left leg and is expected to rest from conducting for about six weeks.

"Everyone here wishes Andrew a speedy recovery," said Larry Tamburri, PSO president. "We were excited about our first tour with Andrew -- we do have our West Coast tour in spring and Carnegie Hall in December -- but his health comes first."

The European tour is set to open Aug. 25 at The Odeion in Patras, Greece.

"I am so disappointed to miss this tour with the PSO," Sir Andrew said in a statement. "I've been looking forward to touring with this wonderful group of musicians for over a year now."

As the suggested recovery time is a pre-surgery estimate, it is unclear whether Sir Andrew will conduct the PSO's season-opening gala concert on Sept. 15.

For the second time this year, American conductor Slatkin has come to the PSO's aid at the last minute. In April, he stepped in ably for ailing Brit Richard Hickox, performing the scheduled program.

It's the latter point that is most significant for the European tour. Mr. Slatkin won't require any change of repertoire or soloists on the tour. For a touring orchestra, this is a crucial issue because presenters and foreign concert halls have already invested heavily in promoting the music and the soloists and have much less leeway in making changes than an orchestra can in its own hall.

Mr. Slatkin will conduct a tour kickoff concert at Heinz Hall Aug. 18 and then replace Sir Andrew for five concerts: in Patras, Greece (Aug. 25); Dublin, Ireland (with pianist Barry Douglas, Aug. 27-28); Cardiff, Wales (with Mr. Douglas, Aug. 29); and London (with pianist Lang Lang, Aug. 30). As scheduled, conductor Hans Graf will lead the second leg of the tour, with stops in Germany with violinist Sarah Chang.

The concert in London is a major event at Royal Albert Hall on the BBC Proms schedule. While the attraction was, in part, that Sir Andrew was once chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra -- the resident ensemble of the Proms -- so was Mr. Slatkin. He led the group from 2000 to 2004. Mr. Slatkin now is music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

"It is also a good match with the kind of music he is known for conducting," said Mr. Tamburri. "We're extremely grateful to the L.A. Philharmonic and the Nashville Symphony for releasing [him] from specific commitments to allow him to lead this tour."

Bruno Bartoletti, Lyric Opera's artistic director emeritus, will replace Sir Andrew for a run of Puccini's "Turandot" beginning Sept. 16.


Classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750.


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