Alex Klein/Livia Sohn
One of the major additions to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the Daniel Barenboim era is Alex Klein, who last year took over the principal oboe chair left vacant by Ray Still in 1992. A native of Brazil, where his talent was recognized early, Klein trained at Oberlin, opting to learn the velvety, dark American oboe sound over the brighter, more suave French sound required by many European orchestras. His gamble paid off. After several years of performing with a wind quintet based in Portland, Oregon, Klein was picked through a series of blind auditions by Barenboim (who reportedly had played a part in the ouster of Still, a veteran no longer in tip-top shape). In his debut season with the CSO, Klein’s elegant and precise playing was like a breath of fresh air, enhancing the already lustrous sound of the wind section; here’s an intelligent thirtysomething virtuoso who could thrive in a solo career if only the standard repertoire included enough showpieces for his underappreciated instrument. Fortunately for the CSO, Klein, who also teaches at Northwestern, has chosen to solo part-time. Earlier this season, he was mesmerizing in his first solo outing with the orchestra, in the Strauss Oboe Concerto, and he’s planned a heavy load of gigs with other local ensembles, first of all this collaboration with the well-regarded Chicago Sinfonietta; he’ll play Mozart’s beguiling Concerto for Oboe in C. The other soloist on the Sinfonietta’s bill is the 19-year-old violinist Livia Sohn, yet another Asian-American wunderkind in a concert scene infatuated with pint-size Asian girls. Sohn, whose parents emigrated from Korea to a New York suburb, won the Yehudi Menuhin competition at age 12, only five years after she started taking lessons at Juilliard. She first teamed up with the Sinfonietta’s maestro, Paul Freeman, in Prague, where he oversaw her performances of violin concerti of Dvorak and Bruch with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (recorded for a forthcoming Carlton Classics CD). Impressed by her poise and fervor, Freeman invited her to reprise Bruch’s G-minor concerto with the midsize and multiethnic Sinfonietta, whose flair with the concerto form is evident in their latest CD, Chicago Concertos, on Cedille. Also on the program are Dvorak’s Symphony no. 7 and the fifth movement from Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras. Monday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 312-857-1062.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Alex Klein photo/ Livia Sohn photo by Christian Steiner.