10 Famous Oboe Players You Should Know

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The oboe is one of the most unique and often overlooked woodwind instruments. The beautiful tone has drawn hundreds of people to listen and appreciate the music created with this instrument. 

There are several talented oboists in the world, past, and present that you should know about. Take a look at ten of the most famous oboe players. 

1. Albrecht Mayer

Albrecht Mayer is a German oboist who began his career in 1990 at 25 years old.

He obtained a position as the principal oboist in the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.

Two years later, he pursued a position at the Berliner Philharmoniker as his solo concert career began to grow. 

Something Mayer enjoys doing is performing music that composers didn’t initially create for an oboe.

He loves using his oboe to play songs written for the human voice.

He’s one of the most sought-after oboists of our time and was inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame in 2013. 

2. Eugene Izotov

Eugene Izotov

Born in Russia, Eugene Izotov studied music there before heading to the United States to further his studies at Boston University.

As one of the most internationally renowned oboists, Izotov is a skilled oboist and music teacher, previously teaching at Julliard School of Music. 

Izotov has a successful career as an oboist and was the first Russian-born musician to hold a principal wind position in a major American orchestra.

He’s been a principal oboist with the Chicago Symphony, Metropolitan Opera and is currently at the San Francisco Symphony. 

3. Heinz Holliger

Heinz Holliger was born in 1939 in a city near Bern, Switzerland.

As a young child, he learned how to play the recorder, piano, and oboe at age 11.

As an adult, he moved to Paris to study music and began his career as an oboist before working at the Basel Symphony Orchestra. 

Now, Holliger is one of the best oboists of this day and age as well as a successful conductor, and composer.

Holliger is known as the musician who extended the oboe’s technical range and traveled the world, sharing his music with others. 

4. Paul McCandless

Paul McCandless was born in Pennsylvania to a very musical family.

Some say that music is in his genes.

He was taught music at a young age and went on to study at prestigious music institutions.

He began his career at 19, playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony. 

McCandless is known for improvising while playing the oboe, combining classical training and artistry.

His ability to improvise earned him a spot in the Paul Winter Consort.

He’s performed with hundreds of musicians and recorded dozens of albums throughout his successful career.

5. Elaine Douvas

Elaine Douvas is a renowned oboist.

Originally from Michigan, she’s studied music her entire life and has since performed in various symphonies and orchestras and shared her knowledge about music and the oboe with students. 

Douvas has been a principal oboist with the Metropolitan Opera since 1977 and previously has performed with the MET Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, and much more.

In addition to performing, she’s been teaching at The Juilliard School since 1982.

6. Francois Leleux

Francois Leleux is a fabulous French oboist and conductor who is well known for the lively energy that he brings to every performance.

Like many famous musicians, Leleux had an early start in life with music.

He was 18 years old when he landed an oboist spot at the Paris Opera. 

Since beginning his career at 18, Leleux has performed in many orchestras and as a solo oboist.

He’s a chamber musician and has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and more.

Currently, Leleux is an Artistic Partner of Camerata Salzburg. 

7. Marcel Tabuteau

The French-American oboist Marcel Tabuteau may be one of the most well-known oboists of all time.

He’s regarded as the founder of the American school of oboe playing.

Throughout his career, he had an immense influence on how people play all instruments classically in America. 

He had a long career, approximately 40 years, playing in the Philadelphia Orchestra before retiring in 1954.

Besides being an excellent oboist, he was also an excellent teacher.

He taught privately as well as at the Curtis Institute of Music. 

8. Elizabeth Koch Tiscione

Elizabeth Koch is the youngest oboist on this list.

Even though she is only 35 years old, she’s a force to be reckoned with within the musical community.

She found her love for the oboe at nine years old when she started playing within the New York public school system. 

She went on to study the oboe at the Curtis Institute of Music before earning a principal oboist spot at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in 2007.

She still belongs to the ASO but teaches at Kennesaw State University and a music school in Medellin, Colombia.

9. Katherine Needleman

Katherine Needleman is a Baltimore native who started playing the oboe at a young age.

She attended the Baltimore School for the Arts but left to further her studies at the Curtis Institute of Music.

In 2003, she started as a principal oboist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. 

Throughout her career, Needleman has performed in dozens of cities in dozens of venues.

Some of the most notable include Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

She records improvised music, which is something many oboists don’t do. 

10. Alex Klein

Plenty of talented musicians begin playing at a young age, and Alex Klein is no different.

Klein began playing the oboe at nine years old in Brazil.

At the age of ten, he started his solo oboist career, and by 11, he was invited to join one of Brazil’s leading chamber music ensembles. 

Since starting his career at 11 years old, he’s gone on to perform with several orchestras.

In 1995, he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Among some of his greatest accomplishments thus far is winning a Grammy for best instrumental soloist with orchestra.

Summing up our List of Famous Oboists

We hope you enjoyed reading about these talented people who have contributed so much to classical music and the oboe over the years.

The 10 famous oboists we’ve listed in this article are just the tip of the iceberg as there are many other amazing musicians that play this instrument, we just can’t list them all.

We’ll be adding to this list shortly though so let us know which musicians you think we should add next.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.