Replacing Andre Watts in a high-profile engagement has long given young pianists a career boost. Watts' Aug. 17 cancellation with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Saratoga (N.Y.) Performing Arts Center, however, comes with extra gravity: The long-admired 70-year-old pianist has prostate cancer.
"It's Andre's wish that we be straight about that," said his manager Linda Marder, whose talent roster at CM Artists includes numerous pianists who are guests of the Philadelphia Orchestra. "Men of a certain age have this problem." Survival rates are very high.
The diagnosis was made only weeks ago, she said, and the pianist, now based at Indiana University in Bloomington, has been to the Mayo Clinic to determine treatment.
Born in Germany, Watts grew up in Philadelphia, graduating from the University of the Arts. He came to national attention in 1963, performing with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein.
His Saratoga replacement, Czech pianist Lukas Vondracek, plays Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 - the same piece he played this year when he won the grand prize at the 2016 Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition in Belgium.