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Eugene Izotov and Old Family Ties

Eugene Izotov, CSO principal oboe; photo by Todd Rosenberg

Bill McGlaughlin and Eugene Izotov at Symphony Center

Izotov is soloist on the CSO broadcast, Sunday at 1:00 PM

“Imagine a young Ted Williams taking his first cuts during Red Sox spring training. Okay, I wasn’t around in the the 1930s, but that’s what it felt like when Eugene walked into a Kansas City Symphony audition. He was twenty years old and we all knew it right away — this kid was born to play oboe. What we didn’t yet know was what a splendid young gentleman he would grow into. ”

—Bill McGlaughlin

At age twenty, CSO principal oboe Eugene Izotov took an audition in Kansas City. “He was green,” recalled the conductor, “and there were some good people auditioning that day.” As fate would have it, Izotov met a conductor who believed in him, someone who remembered thinking, “I can work with this kid.” Izotov always reflects on that time with a sense of gratitude for the conductor who guided him along during a formative time in his career, encouraging him to find his own voice. That conductor was Bill McGlaughlin.

Bill McGlaughlin and Eugene Izotov at Symphony Center

Bill McGlaughlin and Eugene Izotov after a CSO concert last fall

Izotov soloing for his music director, Riccardo Muti; photo by Todd Rosenberg

Izotov soloing for his music director, Riccardo Muti; photo by Todd Rosenberg

This week on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast, it’s Izotov’s turn to come to the front of the orchestra as soloist in the Oboe Concerto of Bohuslav Martinů. For Maestro Muti and the CSO artistic staff, it’s a lot easier to program a concerto for a player like Izotov than it is to pick the right piece. There aren’t that many oboe concertos in the repertoire. A good number of them come from the twentieth century, which can intimidate audiences, but this was a piece they could all get behind.

In a story in “The Double Reed,” Eugene Izotov offers a narrative for the Martinů concerto:

“The concerto is a look at life and the changes of life. The first movement is harmless and happy. You hear bebop and jazz, but also plaintive folk melodies. Suddenly the second movement is much darker, and the dimension changes. It comes at you with a profound sadness and drama that you don’t see coming, especially after the joyous and bubbly first movement. New voices enter in the orchestra as part of the storytelling, particularly the solo in the horn. These new voices bring bad news and the orchestral introduction ends with an unanswered question. The oboe enters, and is as if it is making it up, trying to find the answer, trying to find something that holds true. The orchestra joins and the story builds, ending with an outcry of frustration on one of the oboe’s highest notes. Then comes calm, and a moment of absolution and religious truth. The second movement is the focal point, and it is so effective because of the outer movements. The third is ballet music—I hear Petrushka. It’s very exciting and ends with a thrilling coda.”

Eugene Izotov played under Bill McGlaughlin for one season in Kansas City. He was succeeded by Lora Schaefer, who now sits two chairs down from Izotov in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Kansas City was also one of the first stops in the early career of legendary CSO principal oboe Ray Still.

Hear Eugene Izotov and the CSO performing the Martinů concerto on Sunday afternoon starting at 1:00 PM on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast on WFMT.

Speaking of Bill McGlaughlin and woodwinds, he’s been focusing on the winds section this week on Exploring Music. There are two programs left in the series. Check it out, evenings at 7:00 PM on WFMT.

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