With just two weeks remaining on his contract with the Sydney Symphony, Zdenek Macal, outgoing music director of the Australian orchestra, left Australia suddenly on Friday--ostensibly because of personal fears over the fluctuating Australian dollar.

According to Trevor Green, managing director of the concert division of Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC), Macal, the Czech-born conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony and the Grant Park summer concerts in Chicago, flew to the United States on Friday, "almost without telling anyone. He just disappeared."

Five remaining concerts on the departing conductor's winter schedule, tonight (Wednesday) through next week, were taken over by Russian conductor Victor Yampolsky, who flew to Sydney from New Zealand, where he had been on tour.

"We found out about Macal's leaving just a few hours before his flight took off," Green said. "At the airport, we were unable to talk him out of going.

"We had been aware Macal was concerned over the drop in value (of the Australian dollar), but we assured him from the beginning that ABC would make adjustments so that his fees would not be affected. In other words, the financial thing would be our problem, not his."

Macal, 50, assumed duties as music director of the Sydney orchestra at the beginning of the Australian winter season in March (it runs through November); his contract at that time was for three seasons. But shortly after arriving in Australia, Macal asked to be released from the contract after the first year; ABC agreed.

Green said Macal had had "terrific success with our audiences and with the critics. In a short time, the orchestra players really came to love him. But after this, I don't know how much of that love will be left. The Symphony is very hurt. Australia is very hurt."

Scheduled to conduct in Chicago in mid-August, and due to take over his new post in Milwaukee on Sept. 1, Macal could not be reached in either location Tuesday. Jenny Vogel, a spokesman for ICM, his United States management, said ICM was unaware of Macal's whereabouts.

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