Appointed by Daniel Barenboim in 2005, principal oboist Eugene Izotov combines a multifaceted career of orchestral, solo, teaching and chamber music engagements. Over the last 20 years he has enjoyed numerous affiliations and guest appearances with leading orchestras such as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Boston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Izotov is the first Russian-born musician to hold a principal oboe position in any major American symphony orchestra.

Why did you choose your instrument?

When I was 6 years old, my father took me to the famous Gnesin School for the entrance exam. From one of the rooms came the most amazing and colorful sound I had ever heard. I asked my dad what it was; he said “that’s the sound of the oboe.” I was immediately taken with that beautiful voice and decided it was going to be mine. My dad, a violist, was very happy with my decision since he thought playing a wind instrument would be “so much easier than string playing.” We still laugh about this.

Offstage, I like to:

When I am not practicing, teaching or making reeds, I try to spend as much time as possible with my family. Also, I am interested in etymology, so I love languages and traveling. When you learn a new language, you learn a new culture and see things from another people’s perspective. Different languages add a beautiful variety to life. After all, music also is a language.

What work are you most looking forward to performing this season, and why?

For me, most roads usually lead to Mahler. I really look forward to performing Mahler’s First Symphony in June. Many orchestras turn Mahler into some sort of melodramatic showcase for aggressive brass, sappy string, and caricature winds. Mahler had hoped his symphonies would contain “the world entire,” and his music always has depth, passion, beauty and nobility.

Favorite food or meal:

Shabu shabu: thinly sliced wagyu-quality beef along with vegetables and tofu cooked in a boiling pot, then dipped in either ponzu or sesame sauce. A Japanese classic and after more than 20 trips to Japan, still my favorite. We need more shabu shabu places in Chicago!

Favorite book or movie:

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

HOMETOWN: Moscow, Russia
EDUCATION: Boston University, Gnesin School of Music, Russia