World-class oboist and Grammy Award-winner, Alex Klein is the Spring 2022 Trotter Visting Professor. Klein will call UO home for four days in April, culmiating with a performance alongside the UO Wind Ensemble.
Recognized as one of today's leading oboists, Alex Klein began his musical studies in his native Brazil at age 9, continuing to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music. Klein holds a Grammy Award for his recording of the Concerto for Oboe by Richard Strauss with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. He was Principal Oboe in Chicago for 9 years under Barenboim, and in 2017 was awarded the Oboe Emeritus Soloist title by current music director, Riccardo Muti. Klein won prizes at the international competitions in Geneva, Tokyo, New York and Prague, and is regularly invited to adjudicate international competitions at these institutions as well as in England, China and Russia. Klein left his position at the Chicago Symphony due to complications related to Musician’s Focal Dystonia, a neurological condition that inhibits two fingers in his left hand. During his convalescence, Klein dedicated his musical career to the advancement of young talents from Latin America and neglected communities, founding FEMUSC in 2006, the São Paulo International Chamber Music Festival in 2008, and PRIMA - Program of Social Inclusion through Music and the Arts in 2012. Klein also performed as an orchestral conductor in front of major Brazilian orchestras and in the United States, Europe and was the first Brazilian to lead one of China's top orchestras. After re-learning the oboe and sufficiently overcoming the limitations of focal dystonia, Klein successfully re-auditioned for his former position and returned to the Chicago Symphony in what Chicago Magazine called "one of the greatest comebacks of classical music." Alex Klein today is Principal Oboe with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in Canada, as well as an oboe professor at DePaul University in Chicago, also teaching/performing at the Aspen, Buzzards Bay, Sunflower and Mostly Mozart festivals, and is regularly invited to teach master classes and recitals at North American universities. Klein recorded dozens of albums with the Chicago Symphony and as a soloist and chamber musician, with critical acclaim. His latest CD, released in 2019 by Cedille Records, with 20th Century Sonatas for oboe and piano, was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Producer of the Year”, and was thus lauded by critic David Canfield for Fanfare Magazine: "In my opinion, oboe playing simply does not get any better than this."
Schedule of Events
April 12: Masterclass, Beall Concert Hall, Noon
April 14: Lecture/Q&A on Focal Dystonia, Beall Concert Hall, Noon
April 15: Performance with the UO Wind Ensemble, Rimsky-Korsakov: Variations on a theme by Glinka, Beall Concert Hall, 7:30pm
Before Alex arrives on campus, get to know a little bit about him!
SOMD: You started playing at the age of 9! What originally brought you to music?
Alex: Difficulties fitting in with school in third grade prompted administrators to recommend I should try sports or arts (anything with high intensity). Music stuck. I was taken to an orchestra concert and pointed to the oboe.
SOMD: You’ve been studying and performing for decades. Any favorite stories from your career?
Alex: How much time do you have...? 😂. Too many stories. I have been blessed to live many lifetimes in music, due to the peculiarities of my background and how far music has taken my life. I grew up with a fun youth symphony in Curitiba, Brazil. I became a professional musician at age 11 with my first job in Camerata Antiqua, one of Brazil's foremost chamber orchestras which whom I recorded my first albums. I went to university in São Paulo but eventually transferred to Oberlin, studied at Curtis but decided to go back to Oberlin where I fit in better. I won the Geneva Competition and took other prizes in Tokyo and Prague. I was 30 when they made me principal oboe in the Chicago Symphony where I won 5 Grammys with the orchestra - one of them for the Strauss Oboe Concerto, thus far the only Grammy awarded to an oboe soloist. With Chicago I toured the world, worked with Sir Georg Solti, Pierre Boulez and Baremboim, and played with the top soloists, Rostropovich, Polini, Cecilia Bartoli, and a long list of musical dignitaries. All of that was lost with the arrival of focal dystonia and the way it affected my left hand. Then came "me 2.0," dedicating my life to fostering the advanced music education of talented young people from underserved communities, particularly in Latin America. I created music festivals serving over 10k students from 40 countries. I then created an "El Sistema" in some of Brazil's most dangerous communities, enhancing the quality of life of 4000 students and their families. I then won my principal position in Chicago for a second time (arguably a record), but freaked out the institution with the reality of my disability. I was given Emeritus status which led me to the Calgary Philharmonic where I am to this day.
SOMD: What is some advice you would give to SOMD students as they consider careers in music?
Alex: As Herbert Blomstedt put it, "no one should be a professional musician unless it is absolutely necessary." Music is a very competitive field and only those smart enough and dedicated enough will succeed in it. "Music", however, involves a wide variety of activities, including performance. One can play in an orchestra, band, string quartet, as a soloist, as a radio producer, as a recording engineer, as a conductor, as a manager and a slew of different activities. The wider the palette of options, the better. Those aiming for only one particular kind of music career need to be ready to be disappointed. It is a tough world out there. Be smart, be flexible.
SOMD: What can audiences expect to hear at your April 15 concert with the UO Wind Ensemble? We know the rep, but what are some insights to look or listen for?
Alex: Rimsky-Korsakov is one of the most admired Russian composers. Even if we are now experiencing a moment of Russophobia where anything related to Russia - past or present - is viewed with suspicion or is canceled outright, it is good to remember that musicians then and now have no choice but to go along with the train of history, not being responsible for what countries' leaders do or fail to do. The Variations on a Theme of Glinka are delightful and speak of the composer's stint as a sailor in the Russian Navy. There is a story about that (I wonder if true or augmented over the ages) telling us that Korsakov's navy ship broke down near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So he and his sailor colleagues sent word to Russia that...you know....the ship doesn't work and they are fixing it. Months passed (no doubt some carnavals too...). Around two years later Russia sent another navy ship there to "rescue" the marooned sailors who were in no hurry to leave Rio's beaches and return to the cold in Russia! Following the Korsakov Variations we will play "Le Api" (The Bees) by Antonino Pasculli, "The Paganini of the Oboe." It's sufficient to say the piece has over 3,000 notes which are to be played in about 3 minutes without stopping to breathe.