An interesting, if not deeply revelatory, article in the Wall Street Journal was posted about how orchestras cope when conductors or soloists cancel due to illness. Chad Smith, Los Angeles Philharmonic Vice President for Artistic Planning, is quoted liberally throughout. The article makes a point of mentioning that replacements are often harder to find for the LA Phil because of its penchant for contemporary music.
As of right now, the whole article is available online without a subscription (click HERE). No telling how long that will be the case, so read it quickly.
I wish they would have talked about what orchestras do when orchestra members get sick. Big orchestras like the LA Phil are pretty deep in talent, and if a piece has a big solo, an associate principal can often fill in for an indisposed principal. In addition, Southern California has a huge pool of professional musicians on which to draw, further deepening the potential fill-in pool. Not all such orchestras and/or cities are so lucky, and even the bigger ones can find themselves in a pickle if a key musicians goes down with little or no opportunity for others to practice an important solo. So what happens then?? Enquiring minds would like to know . . .