Happy returns: Chicago rehires the principal oboe it let go

Happy returns: Chicago rehires the principal oboe it let go


norman lebrecht

June 26, 2016

In a move unparalleled in recent orchestra memory, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra rehired Alex Klein on Friday as principal oboe.

Alex, a Brazilian, joined the orchestra in 1995 under Daniel Barenboim as successor to the unforgettable Ray Still.

He retired nine years later, suffering from focal dystonia in his left hand, which he described as ‘a death sentence’. Back in Brazil, he started a Sistema education project, took up conducting, and sought remedies for his malady.

Something must have worked.

On Friday he passed an audition of the principal oboe vacancy in Chicago and was immediately rehired.

We wish Alex happiness and fulfilment in his new/old job.

alex klein



  • Malcolm James says:

    Another misleading headline. They didn’t ‘let him go’, he was forced to retire and neither he nor the orchestra wanted him to go. Now that modern medicine seems to have found a ure for what was thought to be incurable he’s come back.

    • Bruce says:

      “Let go” is a euphemism for “fired” in the US, but maybe it doesn’t mean the same thing in the UK..?

      • Una says:

        It’s slightly different in England’s English – can’t vouch for Scottish or Welsh English – but it amounts to the same thing – without a job but not of your choosing as such. Being sacked is more getting rid of someone you want to get rid of. Letting do of someone is done with a heavy heart or a reluctance through illness or whatever. That’s how I know the term.

    • Ilio says:

      AFAIK, there is still no cure for focal distonia. I suspect that Klein has learned to cope with the problem which has affected many musicians.

      • William Stivelman, MD says:

        Have you not heard of Botox? It is often used quite successfully in focal dystopia. It has helped several noteworthy musicians of voice and the keyboard to return to the concert stage since its approval in the USA and the EU. While it is in effect, for usually 3-4 months at a time between treatments, it is considered by many to be essentially a time-limited cure.

        • Una says:

          Yes, but many simply can’t always afford it – that’s the bottom line, certainly in Britain.

          • William Stivelman, MD says:

            Una, your decoration is not supported by the medical fact. In the United States, Botox is costly than any other country in the world you two are litigious society. However, when you stare beautifully, most insurance in the EU, USA and South America cover the costs. Further, for cash paying patients, the cost for therapeutic intervention of this type for a finger is quite small. Botox is delivered and units. The charge per unit is anywhere from $10-$15, depending upon what part of the world you live in. Since the drug needs to be injected about once every four months to maintain digital function, only three very low complexity visits are likely required subsequent to initial evaluation. A limited office visit for such an injection would typically cost about $60-$80 for a cash paying patient. It would be covered where insurance covers therapeutic indications for the use of Botox. This would likely be affordable for this caliber of player– about $300 per year, which would be affordable in light of the fact that it would be livelihood sparing. Second, I have had several British patients who have had therapeutic indications for Botox and they have been able to return home and have ongoing therapy by local specialists for medically necessary therapy. Unfortunately there are some countries in which the drug is simply not available, but not for good reason. In the case of my specific patients, a letter explaining the situation and the contingencies and risk at hand has been is all that is been necessary to obtain authorization for such ongoing intervention. Certainly, in the US this is covered by union insurance. I realize that’s not applicable everywhere, but it is indeed a relatively low-cost intervention contrary to your supposition.

          • William Stivelman, MD says:

            Apologies for lapses in Siri’s transcription, Una. I thought I had verified everything.

  • Michael Klotz says:

    This is wonderful news. I was just with Alex at the Sunflower festival in Topeka and he sounded just fabulous on everything he played. What an inspiring story and wishing Alex and family all best for their move back to the Windy City.

  • MacroV says:

    Nobody deserves to lose a job or career the way that Alex did, so I’m really pleased that he has been able to adapt to his condition, and wish him a great second act at the CSO.

  • Nannerl says:

    He had an oboe specially built for him with the tone holes in different positions to accommodate his particular distonia. He had to learn to play the oboe all over again. Astounding musician and character.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Would you know who built this oboe for him. Lorée in Paris? Thank you. Knowing this might help other musicians suffering from the same ailment.

      • Wai Kit Leung says:

        I am responding since no one else is. Yes it is an oboe built by Lorée in Paris. It has the A key offset a little and the G key extended (a la saxophone), and the left hand little finger cluster moved up a bit. It suits Mr. Klein, as he has problems with his left hand ring and little fingers. For a different musician, if the problems are on different fingers, a different solution would be needed.

        In any case, a huge brave to Alex Klein for winning his seat back. I wish him a long and successful second stint with the CSO.

  • Una says:


    Another interesting interview done between Bruce Duffie in Chicago and Alex Klein.

  • Jose says:

    Disgusting way to promote botox, guess 99 per cent of the information is missing.
    In fact botox is extremely dangerous concerning focal dystonia, it is known it has hurt many musicians

  • Doug says:

    Who wouldn’t want to leave Oberlin Conservatory? The level of GroupThink there is absolutely astounding.

  • Una says:

    Not a problem, William, thank you.

    The trouble is Britain does not function like the rest of the EU. We have a National Health Service, and free at the point of delivery to every single person here. Depends if Botox is approved by the NHS for that purpose. If so, then it would be free if deemed necessary. That is our health service but I am no medic or have any list of what is approved or not. Many in the corporate world would have insurance paid by the banks and the big firms, but as a free-lance singer and teacher, I just don’t, and neither do many others I know, particularly musicians. It is SO expensive. Once you have reached 60, which I have, then National Insurance contributions cease but you are covered automatically. Botox? I really don’t know.

  • Sam says:

    Yet another sensationalist, misleading heading on Slipped Disc.