Chicago’s ex-oboe becomes principal in Canada

Chicago’s ex-oboe becomes principal in Canada


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2018

Alex Klein, who had to leave the Chicago Symphony twice with focal dystonia, has just announced this:

Glad to accept the Principal Oboe chair with the Calgary Philharmonic and look forward to many years of music making in Canada.

We wish Alex every happiness.



  • Bill says:

    Chicago’s loss, Calgary’s gain. And as an added bonus, he gets to live in a sane country. Good luck to him.

        • Mick says:

          -3 (with regards to the sane country slap)

          • Evelyn Kenley says:

            Why are you offended by the “sane country slap”? Please try to see things objectively, outside of your insular bubble. The U.S. is for many, if not most, musicians and other travelers, a VERY strange and unpleasant place to visit and deal with. There is, sadly, a strong undercurrent of ‘insanity’ there nowadays. I have a friend who works in the management of a second ranked Canadian orchestra. She has told me that since early 2016 they have been receiving applications from U.S. based musicians in top first ranked U.S. orchestras and in some cases even from U.S. “big five” orchestras. When contacted they all say that they would accept the big cut in pay and the loss of playing in a prestigious ensemble, just to get themselves and their families out of an insane and depressing country.She told me that this attitude was strongest among U.S. based musicians with young children, who don’t want their children growing up in such a place. So, there is certainly some truth to the “sane country” comment above.

          • Mick says:

            Sorry, I’m out there in many more worlds than you know (in and out of the arts). The flow is still into the country, overwhelmingly, at all income and education levels.

          • Bruce says:

            By all means feel free to disagree with Bill; but Mr. Klein’s long comment outlining the difficulties his family has faced due to US immigration policy, and the differences he notes between the societies of the two countries (his family has been living there for years while he worked in the US), is illuminating. If more people are still coming into the country than leaving it, that still does not make it a “sane” place for everyone.

  • MacroV says:

    Good for him. Calgary may not have the profile of the CSO, but like any orchestra that pays a living wage, it’s an excellent ensemble. Plus the Canadian healthcare system.

  • Thomasina says:

    “healthcare system”. There are not many countries where MRI is free (I have recently experienced).

    • Doug says:

      There are also not very many countries in which they have the MRI technology (Canada for example) but it can be used on a moments notice with your pet, at a veterinary office, but for a human, you have to get in line and wait six to ten months, such as in Calgary. Explain that.

      • Jim says:

        Doug, if you think Canadian pets get MRIs left right and centre while their owners languish in MRI purgatory then you are mistaken. Did you hear that on Fox News?

      • Thomasina says:

        Obviously the all patients are not in the same condition? I was semi-emergency and waited for only 17 days. In my case was: Home doctor – Gynecology – General hospital (ultrasonography and found a shadow) – MRI (finally it was not dangerous). They were all free. (but I wonder why I publish my medical file on this blog…)

      • Bill says:

        Simple, the pets getting immediate MR imaging are doing so at the personal expense of their owner, not the national health care system. I believe you can get yourself an immediate MRI with a similar payment arrangement.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Lucky Calgary Philharmonic to get such a wonderful musician!

  • Alex Klein says:

    A few comments, if I may.

    1) I did leave the Chicago Symphony in 2004 due to the onset of Focal Dystonia. I have since retrained. I did NOT leave the CSO in 2017 again due to Focal Dystonia, at least not on my part. I am a survivor of this illness and have overcome its symptoms. During my brief period of return to Muti’s CSO I did not encounter problems in my playing due to Focal Dystonia, even if yes it was a herculean effort to regain control of my fingers for a long and successful season.

    2) The USA is indeed going through a difficult phase, perhaps since the 80’s, but that alone is not a reason to depart its music scene and I plan on continuing to teach and perform in the US even if my residence will move north.

    3) The Canadian standard of living, healthcare, social net, emphasis on multiculturalism, common sense politics, diversity, place that country in one of the best standards of living on earth. Yes, it is very appealing not only to live there but also to further contribute to that frame of mind as an example to the world, if not also to the US where many of these ideals were developed and used to be cherished earlier.

    4) The greatest appeal of Calgary vs Chicago or other US places for me? Immigration. I am a Brazilian (legal) immigrant into the US. Unlike all other countries in the world, my family is not allowed to live with me in the US if I have a green card. They have been “parked” in Canada ever since Muti invited me to return to the CSO 2 years ago. The separation of our family (which seems to be a general negotiating tactic against the influx of immigrants by the US government) has been sad and straining, but we are all well. Any other employment opportunity in the US would render us the same separation and significant harassment in the “no-man’s-land” at the borders – a fact Americans are oblivious to and can do nothing about, as it is a land in between sovereignties and out of the public view, but believe me, what your border patrol does in your names is unbecoming of American expectations. An opportunity to perform in Calgary means our family can live and grow together, and the immigration issues to be resolved are done so with common sense, solid organization and no offense to families.

    5) I am particularly impressed with Calgary’s multiculturalism and diversity. It is the only North-American city with a Muslim mayor (some say he is also gay), and there is a sense of community within all nationalities, a friendliness between people who happen to be “different” (whatever that means). As an example and as you all know, Chicago is heavily segregated into neighborhoods defending only one race or another, several with seriously rampant crime problems. I have students who are often unable to leave their apartment due to the presence of a murderer on the street, which the police somehow is unable to resolve or provide safety. As a “community”, Chicago leaves much to be desired. I see Calgary and Canada as a place where social issues are addressed by engagement and not through the barrel of guns.

    6) While its true that the CSO and CPO are at different budget standards, we all know that money doesn’t necessary buy excellence – if that was so, rich families would have the most talented kids. Music belongs with the musicians, not with money, and although these two sides occasionally coincide due to supply and demand and other capitalist forces, the evidence is clear that music happens where we find a dedication to music, by musicians. It is not a phenom saved only for the richest orchestras, but something of a commitment made by musicians towards their community, seen in the way they smile at children during a Family Concert instead of posturing and frowning to families as a silly endeavor to impose respect as a “serious” musician, and as they embrace their audience with the awe of discovery in every concert. Music was never meant to separate people into classes, quite the contrary, our music represents humanity and is available to all who care to discover it with us. That is my desire as I join the ranks of the Calgary Philharmonic, to make a difference in a community dedicated to supporting each other, in respect and common sense, and where my family and I are well received and cherished for what we bring to our neighbors.

    • Doug says:

      Bravo! Alex.

    • MacroV says:

      Congratulations on winning this job. I appreciate your commentary, and wish you all the best.

      However, I am a little curious about the immigration issue (Item 4). Any employment-related immigrant visa (most likely E-1 or E-3) would allow you to bring your immediate family (spouse, minor children), as would a H1B employment visa. You wouldn’t be able to with a P visa, but that would seem an odd choice for an orchestral position. I’m also surprised you didn’t naturalize during your first CSO tenure, but that’s your business. I don’t disagree with you about what’s happening at the border, in any case. Good luck.

      • Alex Klein says:

        I don’t have these visas. I’ve had a green card for 30 years, but never felt it would be proper for me to naturalize. I have and love many friends in the US. I’ve lived there for decades, and consider myself an “American professional” for having studied and worked there for so long (the Brazilian music scene for me is just insanely complicated and politicized, for ex.). But to “be American”, honestly, I would have to accept the other side of this, and I am not ready to do this. I don’t agree with the endless wars, the pseudo-moral standing, the legal exclusivity, and the number of civil rights laws that serve no purpose whatsoever as the society in large is still basically racist, uninstructed in what I used to see as American values, as seen on seemingly endless cases of black unarmed teenagers being shot to death, KKK, Charloteville and all. I don’t say this to criticize the US, because I still believe in what its supposed to be about, and root for a turnaround in the country back to earlier values and away from militarism. Naturalization is therefore a bit awkward for me. But Canadian citizenship might be interesting to pursue. And unfortunately, as long as Brazil sinks into further disaster I owe it to my children to get them out of there and into a place with better values.

        • Howie says:

          Congratulations to you Mr. Klein and good luck in Calgary! As a tax consultant, as well as an amateur musician, I hope that you are aware that as a green card holder in the U.S.A. for 30 years, and even though you are not a U.S. citizen and are moving to Canada, where you will be working, you will be still liable to file and pay U.S. taxes for the rest of your life. Under the most sinister and evil tax system ever created by humans, U.S. law will treat you exactly the same as a U.S. citizen and require you to file and pay U.S. taxes no matter where you live and work in the world. As a green card holder, if you have held a green card for more than 8 out of 15 consecutive years then you can not escape the U.S. tax system, even if you give back your green card. You can indeed use Canadian income tax to offset your U.S. tax liabilities, but you will still have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of your Canadian home to the United States, you will be heavily taxed by the U.S. on your Canadian “tax free” pension plan, you will be highly discouraged from investing in Canadian or non-U.S. mutual funds, as the U.S. will punish you with over 50% tax and endless reporting. There are many more such things, but you must see a tax advisor to avoid the worst. One strong piece of advice: do not tell your Canadian bank that you hold a U.S. green card. If you do, all of your Canadian accounts will be reported to the IRS and you will be under permanent financial surveillance by them, even though you live in Canada. I know this all sounds hard to believe, but just ask the right people and search the internet. The United States is today like a fiscal prison, with ever U.S. citizen or long-term green card holder who dares to leave put under draconian tax laws and financial surveillance under the 2010 FATCA legislation. You are lucky to get out of that place, but you need to be prepared. I hope this advice will save you heartache and money.

          • Rainer Roth says:

            Not sure everything you are saying is accurate. I have many American friends living here in my city Victoria, who have abdicated their citizenship and no longer required to pay any US taxes. Mr Klein could hand back his Green Card and return to his status as before obtaining it. In effect it is impossible that the fed would have any different tax authority over an American abdicating than a foreigner giving up a Green Card. I’d check those facts.

    • Emileigh says:

      Hi Alex,

      I’m joining the cello section of the CPO too; I’m starting next fall.

      I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write so thoughtfully. Your articulate message clearly depicted a hellacious scenario for your family. You want to be together and that makes complete sense to me. I’m from the US and I am disgusted by what you’ve experienced as an immigrant. I hope your family has some peace of mind in Canada.

      Can’t wait to meet you next season- let’s grab drinks!

      With love,


  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    The absolute best example of fine woodwind playing is Mr Klein’s recording of the Strauss Concerto with Barenboim conducting. Nothing else compares. It’s a desert island recording. I have yet to hear an oboe play with that sheer level of vocalise and musicianship.

    I’m sorry for the health issues. God deals us our hand and we play the hand we’re dealt.

    I wish Mr Klein the best in Canada. Bloom where you are planted

  • Matt Heller says:

    I am delighted to have Alex Klein as a colleague in the Calgary Philharmonic. I knew and admired his playing when I was studying in Chicago, and am thrilled to now share a stage (and a city) with him. I am also a dual US-Canadian citizen, and while I won’t claim to understand all the intricacies of US immigration, tax, and criminal justice policies, I see a lot of truth in what he writes. Welcome to Canada, Alex.