"Unfortunately I have to resign from my commitments within the near future with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra," said Abbado in a prepared statement, "... due to health reasons, as my doctors have advised. It is my wish to return to conducting as soon as possible. I send my best and warmest wishes to my colleagues in the Orchestras and to my colleague directors who will substitute for me."
A replacement conductor will be announced at a later date.
The three concerts — the Opening Night Gala on October 3, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on October 4 and Mahler's Third Symphony on October 6 — are part of a five-day New York residency by the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which Abbado founded in 2003. The LFO's musicians will give seven performances in total on all three Carnegie Hall stages, including appearances as the Mahler Chamber Orchestra with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as conductor/piano soloist and in various chamber configurations as well as the three full symphonic programs.
Abbado was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000; after undergoing arduous treatment that included the removal of part of his digestive tract, he returned to the podium and completed his tenure as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, where he had succeeded Herbert von Karajan. (Abbado's final performances in the post were met with delirious praise.)
Since leaving Berlin, Abbado has maintained a relatively light schedule by star conductor standards, devoting himself primarily to the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (which forms the nucleus of the LFO) and Orchestra Mozart, a Bologna-based ensemble of young musicians of which he is music director. Among the other performances from which Abbado has withdrawn are a series of concerts this month with Orchestra Mozart in Bologna and at the Bolzano Festival in the Italian Alps.