Japanese maestro Ozawa takes break after back surgery

TOKYO Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:07am EST

Maestro Seiji Ozawa conducts the Seiji Ozawa Ongaku-juku orchestra during a rehearsal at the National Theatre in Beijing April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Grace Liang

Maestro Seiji Ozawa conducts the Seiji Ozawa Ongaku-juku orchestra during a rehearsal at the National Theatre in Beijing April 15, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Grace Liang

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's most famous orchestral conductor, Seiji Ozawa, will take a complete break from conducting for six months after a back condition for which he had surgery was more extensive than expected.

The 75-year-old former Vienna State Opera musical director was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year ago and completed treatment by August, but in January underwent endoscopic lower back surgery for chronic pain.

Ozawa had planned six concerts in Japan for March, but these have now been canceled, said organizers at Ozawa's Ongaku Juku, which he founded to help nurture young musicians through opera.

"Though the surgery was successful and his chronic back pain has been cured, he's much like an athlete and what he does really taxes his back," the organizers said in a statement.

"Therefore he has decided to concentrate on rehabilitation for about half a year."

The mop-haired Ozawa's last engagement was at New York's Carnegie Hall in December. He now has nothing scheduled until an August music festival.

Ozawa was one of the first Asian classical musicians widely recognized abroad and strived to revitalize the music scene in his native country by founding an annual festival in the castle town of Matsumoto.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Ron Popeski)

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