With those words, in an interview published yesterday in The Philadelphia Inquirer, 83-year-old Wolfgang Sawallisch confirmed that he has retired from conducting for good.
Speaking to reporter Peter Dobrin, Sawallisch — the former music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and the Bavarian State Opera — explained that his blood pressure is subject to unpredictable fluctuations that prevent him from traveling even short distances. To his regret, the conductor is unable to journey even to nearby Munich or Salzburg to hear concerts.
Concerns about Sawallisch's health have been widespread ever since, in 2003, he cancelled many of his final scheduled performances as the Philadelphia Orchestra's music director. During the past two seasons, he has cancelled a series of appearances with orchestras with which he has had long and deep relationships, including the Accademia de Santa Cecilia in Rome and the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Sawallisch now spends his days at his estate in Grassau in the Bavarian Alps, playing piano in his two-story music room, helping to launch a local music school and foundation, receiving visitors and admiring the natural beauty of his surroundings. "All the time before," he told his interviewer, "it was never possible to feel what springtime could be here or fall, because I was always out of Grassau. Today, I live here as a normal man."