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Conductor Muti receives heart pacemaker in Chicago

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Doctors said on Friday they implanted a pacemaker in conductor Riccardo Muti to treat a heart rhythm problem that caused the Chicago Symphony Orchestra leader to faint and injure his face at a rehearsal.

Cardiologists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital blamed Muti's February 3 fainting spell on a "common heart rhythm disturbance" and said the pacemaker they implanted would monitor his heart and, if necessary, deliver a shock if his heartbeat becomes too slow.

"Fortunately, the remainder of the Maestro's medical evaluation has revealed that he has superb heart function ... Patients with pacemakers live full and active lives with excellent prognosis," the doctors said in statement released by the Chicago Symphony.

The Italian conductor, 69, who was named the Chicago orchestra's music director a year ago, said he was disappointed to miss a series of February concerts because the orchestra had "sounded like angels" in rehearsal.

Muti fainted and pitched forward onto the stage during an extended rehearsal last week, fracturing his jaw and other facial bones and suffering a gashed chin. He had surgery earlier this week that wired his jaw shut for a few weeks and inserted permanent plates in his face.

"A music director's relationship with his orchestra is like a marriage," Muti said in the statement. "I think it was destiny that I came to Chicago and I think what has happened is also destiny, because now I understand and feel more comfortable than ever about returning to my work."

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)