Japan maestro Ozawa says he has time 'given by God'

Acclaimed Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa said Wednesday he wants to use the time he "has been given by God" after surviving cancer to teach the next generation of musicians.

The 77-year-old, who underwent surgery for cancer of the oesophagus in 2010 and was treated for a hernia in 2011, said he will invite 24 of Asia's most talented young string players to attend his chamber music academy in Japan.

Ahead of his full-scale comeback planned in August, he will conduct Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings" in July during concerts that will mark the end of the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy Okushiga, Asia.

"I have been lucky. It was a serious illness," Ozawa told a Tokyo press conference. "I think the time I have has been given by God, so I am making good use of it."

Ozawa, who has been away from the podium for a year during his battle back to health, has worked with young musicians in Switzerland and Japan while leading the Ozawa Ongaku-juku music academies for symphony and opera.

"I am gradually coming back to my main job of conducting after my illness," he told reporters. "But I have no interest in cutting back on my teaching."

Ozawa's first full-scale engagement since January last year will be Maurice Ravel's opera "The Child and the Spells" in August at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto in Japan.

In a career that has spanned the globe, Ozawa spent nearly three decades at the Boston Symphony Orchestra before moving to Austria in 2002 to become musical director for the Vienna State Opera.

He has collaborated with luminaries of the music world including Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein.

The concerts by the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy -- in which young talent from Japan, Singapore, China and Taiwan will play under his baton -- will take place in the central prefecture of Nagano on July 28 and 29 and in Tokyo on July 31.