Andre Watts, left, and Juho Pohjonen (photos by Steve J. Sherman and Henry Fair)

Pianist André Watts won't be playing the Minnesota Orchestra's opening concerts in September. The orchestra notified ticketholders Friday that Watts is recovering from back and neck surgery and "with great regret needs to withdraw from his upcoming appearance."

Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen will replace Watts as the featured soloist for the Sept. 19, 20 and 21 shows. The music planned for the concerts, to be conducted by music director Osmo Vänskä, will remain the same. Pohjonen, who played a solo concert in St. Paul last year, has performed with Vänskä many times, according to the orchestra.

"I am very happy that Juho Pohjonen is going to play with the orchestra," Vänskä said in a statement, "but we are sorry to hear that Mr. Watts is unable to perform in these concerts, and we wish him well in his recovery."

This is the second cancellation in as many years by Watts, an Orchestra Hall favorite for more than 50 years. A bout with the flu caused him to bow out of a concert at the last minute in February 2018. Back problems also led Watts to cancel a 2016 appearance with the orchestra.

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