A case of musician abuse?

A case of musician abuse?


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2011

I am posting, without comment, two case histories of musicians who have been hustled out of their jobs by forces beyond their control – which usually means conductor intervention.

The first concerns the orchestra of Glyndebourne on Tour, a freelance ensemble that does outstanding work through the English autumn and winter. Its chief conductor is the promising young Czech, Jakob Hrusa. It should be emphasized that Glyndebourne are following proper procedure and all due forms of consultation. It is a far cry from the Brazil furore.

What follows is a petition that is being circulated among the orchest

Dear player from last Autumn’s GoT orchestra,

Many of you may have
heard already that George (surname withheld) received a letter in February telling him that he will
no longer be leading the orchestra.

I heard the news on the grapevine
last week, and was concerned that some players might not know and wouldn’t have
a chance to voice any concerns they might have about the handling of the matter.
I am sending this email to as many players as I can just to make sure that
everyone at least has the chance to find out about what has happened.

don’t know all the details of how this has come about. However, it seems to me
that a colleague has been treated badly, and when we are working for such a
prestigious company as Glyndebourne, we should not be so scared of losing our
well-paid work that we are totally unable even to ask polite questions of the

The orchestra committee were approached by some members of last
year’s orchestra in the hope that they might be able to represent the
orchestra’s point of view in a letter to the management at Glyndebourne.
However, having heard differing ideas on how best to present the orchestra’s
opinions, the committee members felt that the reactions of so many disparate
freelance players who aren’t currently working together can’t really be
expressed in a single letter.

Although the letter to George stated that
GoT would be seeking a new leader for the 2011 tour, a member of the committee
told me that assurances have been made that no new leader will be engaged until
George has met with the head of human resources at Glyndebourne. This meeting is
to take place in early April with Steven Naylor and Julia Murray-Logue. I think
it is important that anyone who has anxieties about the situation voices them
before this meeting.

Some years ago, Glyndebourne on Tour introduced
official procedures for dealing with problems within the orchestra, and these
were set out in the orchestra’s booklet, explaining what a player could expect
to happen if his or her playing or behaviour was giving cause for concern.

These steps included initial warnings, meetings with section leaders, a
chance for the player to rectify the problem, a review meeting, and careful
guidelines about what would happen if the problem was unresolved. These
procedures are no longer printed in the tour booklet. Since the guidelines were
introduced, several players have lost their positions in the orchestra after
years of service without these procedures having been followed. George has been
leading the orchestra for twenty years, and has received this letter out of the

Glyndebourne on Tour receives Arts Council funding, and this use of
taxpayers’ money carries with it high expectations of a company being well

I am not suggesting any kind of rabble-rousing or militant action,
but if you feel strongly about what has happened, please write a letter or email
to one of the following:
–  George, who must be going through a terrible
time, and would value any support. He can also pass on your views at the meeting
in April, if you wish. 
– Someone at Glyndebourne – Gus Christie is the
Executive Chairman, David Pickard is the General Director, Steven Naylor (who
wrote to George) is the Director of Artistic Administration, and Julia
Murray-Logue is head of human resources. The address: Glyndebourne, Near
Ringmer, Lewes, East Sussex. BN8 5UU
– Jakub Hrusa, the Music Director of

Your letter can be anonymous, if you prefer, and any correspondence
could be copied to another of these names if appropriate. I understand that
freelance musicians value highly a patch of work such as this tour, and that the
fear of not being asked to play with the orchestra again might make a player
hesitant to speak his or her mind. However, I hope that we might be able to pull
together to persuade the company to treat its orchestral musicians in a more
reasonable way.