Principal oboe resumes his seat after 12-year break

Principal oboe resumes his seat after 12-year break


norman lebrecht

August 05, 2016

This is Alex Klein’s first day back at work as principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Alex resigned from the orchestra in 2004 after two fingers in his left hand were afflicted with focal dystonia. Over time, back home in Brazil, he learned to manage the condition by adjusting the keys on his oboe.

He won his seat back at audition last month.

Tonight, he can be heard at the Ravinia Festival.


alex klein


  • Wai Kit Leung says:

    Just curious: besides Alex Klein and Karlheinz Zoeller, have there been any principal chairs with a major orchestra who returned after a lengthy lay-off?

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      During WWII, many major orchestra principal players were absent for up to 4 years and successfully returned to their principal chair (but without re-audition). Mason Jones, principal horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra, returned after military service and his substitute during his absence was James Chambers who then became principal of NYPhil. I’m sure there were others.

      • NYMike says:

        “Returned without re-audition” – US law at the time was that returning veterans were to be given back their jobs.

        According to a story that I heard, when Jones returned from the service Ormandy took him and Chambers aside, saying “there’s an opening in the NY Phil. Which one of you wants it?”

    • harold braun says:

      Paul Renzi,San Francisco Symphony principal flute left after 2 seasons for the NBC Symphony.After several seasons there he returned to SFS and stayed there for 55 more years.

  • mr oakmountain says:

    I’m so pleased for Alex Klein; he had to give up his career, but actually got – or rather won – his life back after what I imagine what must have been a hard struggle. Re-auditioning must be quite daunting too. Welcome back!

    • MacroV says:

      Knowing how the CSO has done principal auditions in recent years (holding an audition, picking nobody, then trying out a few big guns in a more private process), I wonder if he did a full-blown, multi-rounds audition. Since he had the job once, did it well, and had to leave through no fault of his own, I have no objection if the CSO merely listened to him, liked what they heard, and re-hired him. I wish him all the best.

      I’m a little curious, having heard him say that he can generally play one week and then needs to rest for 2-3 weeks, will he actually play full-time, or will he only play perhaps a week a month with the assistant principal covering much of the time? Would be more readily managed in a European orchestra with two equal principals sharing the load.

      • Wai kit leung says:

        I am not sure if there was actually an audition. Throughout the past season, the CSO invited several oboists as guest principal for a week or so. Alex Klein was picked not long after his guest appearance with them.

        • Matthew says:

          There was indeed an audition. Whether or not Klein had to play a note behind a screen before the “super final” round, where he most certainly competed directly against one or two others, is not clear.

        • JP Jenkinson says:

          Wai Kit Leung. If you are not sure do not comment. He auditioned fair and square and Muti was there too, whereas Baremboim and colleagues appointed Mr Klein in the first place. He is one of the great Oboe players in the world and worked very hard on himself to get to the stage where he could maintain this job again. Respect where respect is due.

          • wai kit leung says:

            I have the utmost respect for Alex Klein. He was a great player, and to come back from a his condition and to win back his own seat is heroic. I have many of his CDs and even studied with him in a summer course. I am not sure if anything I wrote could be/should be taken as disrespect. I wrote what I knew, and said I wasn’t sure if there was an audition. I wouldn’t have replied to Macrov if someone in the know like you posted before I did. Matthew also wasn’t clear on a certain detail. Somehow you did not see the need to criticize him.

  • IVAN says:

    Emmanuel Pahud?

  • Nik Babic says:

    Reinhard Goebel, German violinist, leader of Musica Antiqua Cologne