Lawrence Leighton Smith, the celebrated music director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic for the past decade, has been diagnosed with Binswanger’s Disease. A form of dementia, it’s caused by widespread damage to the deep layers of white matter in the brain, with symptoms that include loss of concentration, language disorders and impaired mobility.
“There’s no cure for it, but he’s in very good hands, and his wife Leslie is taking exceptional care of him too,” Philharmonic president/CEO Nathan Newbrough told the Independent. “He’s had kind of perplexing issues going on for a while, and so for him it’s a huge relief to finally know that this is not just him, that there’s actually a reason for it. So he’s actually happier now than he’s been in a while.”
The 74-year-old music director’s level of participation throughout the remainder of the 2010-11 season is as yet undetermined, apart from the fact that he will not be conducting the Feb. 19 “Symphonie Fantastique” program. “He’s still on the books to conduct in April and May,” says Newbrough. “They’re taking it day-by-day.”
Having kicked off the Philharmonic season with a performance of Strauss’ epic “A Hero’s Life,” Leighton Smith is also scheduled to bring it to a close with his May 21-22 farewell concert featuring works by Bruckner and Tchaikovsky.
Between now and then, there will be three other Masterworks series performances. Each will be conducted by one of the finalists in the ongoing search for a new music director, which got underway after Leighton Smith gave the Philharmonic his “two-year notice” back in 2009.