German Hochschule cancels British appointment

The early-music specialist Andrew Lawrence-King is seething over the cancellation of an offer from the Hochschule für Musik Detmold for him to set up a department for Historical Performance Practice. No reason was given for the withdrawal of the job offer. (Could it be Brexit?)

Andrew writes:

This is an open letter to the students and staff of the Hochschule für Musik Detmold, explaining why I will not be taking up the newly-created post of Professor of Historical Performance Practice, offered to me and accepted at the end of February.

This was a month of extreme contrasts, of intense demands, of high professional and artistic acheivement, and of personal loss. My encounter with Detmold Hochschule became part of this mix of triumph and tragedy.

I know of many cases, involving myself and others, where institutions have mistreated musicians, knowing that there will be little resistance. And I believe that I should tell this story, on behalf of other musicians who do not have the freedom to tell their own stories.

I remain passionately enthusiastic about the idea of establishing a 21st-century Early Music department integrated within a modern conservatoire, founded on cutting-edge research, evidence-based teaching and high-quality performance. I have invested considerable time and money planning and travelling to Detmold for interviews and meetings.

But without any warning to me, and apparently without consulting or even informing the Appointments Commission (the committee responsible for intervewing candidates and selecting a consensus choice), Rektor Grosse emailed me to cancel my week-long first visit and withdraw the job-offer.

This cancellation is most irregular, and may not be legal within the Hochschule’s rules and German law: it would seem to constitute breach of promise with me. At the very least, it is inexcusably rude.

Read his detailed account here.

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  • FS60103 says:

    Extremely unlikely to be Brexit (which has not happened). Anglophobic scaremongering about Brexit might be a factor of course, in which case the institution should be held to account for its prejudice.

  • Tamino says:

    Was it a full time professorship they offered?
    Might the professorship have been connected to the expectation to set up residency in proximity to Detmold? I think that’s often the case in Germany.
    His wiki page states he spends most of his spare time on his yacht on Guernsey…

    • Luigi Nonono says:

      Meaning he pays no taxes? Selfish git.

    • Kevin says:

      Did you actually read the full article? Guernsey is where he lives, and he was at home for exactly 4 days in January, 3 in February, and then nothing till mid April, which included attending his father’s funeral. A simple glance at his touring schedule will tell you how minuscule that “spare time” is. Why shouldn’t he spend it relaxing as he chooses to? In any case, what has that got to do with this issue?

  • Eusibius says:

    There’s a vacancy for Head of the Early Music Department at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague…

  • Petros Linardos says:

    I vividly remember Andrew Lawrence-King tuning his harp onstage during the intermission of a Hesperion concert in Graz in 1994. He was surrounded by several people from the audience. There was a lot of spontaneous interaction. What started as
    a tuning session, ended up being a short lecture and demonstration, all in fluent German. Hard to think he cannot make a first class professor, if he can make the appropriate time commitment.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    He should not be teaching harp anywhere. He is self-taught, has no harp technique, and conned his way into a career, playing with ugly sound on ugly instruments. He is an organist who decided to exploit the harp. Others would have filled that void, only who has the money to have a special harp made? All he knows is the literature. That’s not enough!

    • Christopher Storey says:

      Drivel as usual from Nonono ( and indeed the second posting of its kind from him on this thread alone ) . Can Nonono actually play any instrument ? or are his contributions merely to vent his spleen on anyone in sight ?

  • fflambeau says:

    Isn’t he from Guersney (which has a special relationship with the EU)? I also doubt it was Brexit.

    Perhaps finances at the German school?

    At any rate, the maestro should see a lawyer.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      The Channel Islands are not in the EU although the UK is. Yes, currently it has a special status, but that status depends on Britain’s relationship with the EU. What happens when (or perhaps if) Britain finally leaves…who knows. I doubt anyone has thought much about it at all.

  • Nick says:

    German school like their professors to have time to work with students. This is reasonable, since they pay reasonable salaries. With ALK schedule and lack of availability they probably felt uneasy to continue to offer him a position. Has nothing to do with Brexit. German are known to be quite international when it comes to faculty members, UK included. The actual article suggests that ALK has virtually NO TIME for teaching in a full professorial setting. Cannot blame Detmold, although polite their behavior is, of course, not. They acted in their students interests. After all they exist on taxpayers’ money!

    • fflambeau says:

      Hi Nick, Actually, German higher education has the opposite reputation: lots of complaints about Professors spending zero time with their students. I can remember spending time not long ago at an advanced summer school at a German university; I addressed the school head as “Professor” so and so and was corrected by his assistant, who said he was Herr Doktor Professor….. The trouble is, I have the same qualifications.

      The late commissioner for Germany was the former President of Harvard and Germans routinely addressed him as Herr Doktor, Doktor, Doktor Doktor, Doktor Conant. (He had 5 Ph.D.’s–honorary ones at least).There’s a huge gulf between the Herr Doktor Professors and everyone else. Students are quite secondary.

      Your explanation sounds dubious also because the Hochschule would have known the applicant’s schedule before they made him an offer. To me it sounds like either a money problem, or there’s another candidate that emerged that they like better (like someone who knows someone else).

      • HugoPreuss says:

        With respect, this is nonsense. I am a professor at a German university, and nobody addresses me with my title, but just with my name (granted, law and medicine may be different, but humanities, social science and sciences are not). Second, “Doktor Professor” is simply wrong; it would be the other way around. Which makes me wonder how much experience the writer has.

        Third, the whole thing is mysterious. It takes a long time and a long deliberation before an offer is extended. But to withdraw it after the fact is virtually unheard of. I have never seen this. Which makes me assume that there is a very severe and special reason for this unfortunate and extremely rare event. A reason unknown to the public and thus to everyone commenting here.

  • Teseo says:

    ALK was fired from his position at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen many years ago for misconduct. Since then, he has been dropped for unknown reasons from the rosters of many other institutions: Amherst Early Music Festival, the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, Australian Research Council Center for Excellence in the History of Emotions, Perm Opera, and the Royal Danish Academy of Music, to name a few. There must indeed be a “very severe and special reason.”

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Thanks for this pretty extensive list. That sounds indeed like there might be something behind the curtain that would make the appointing committee think twice about their move. If there is fire with all this smoke, it would be an excellent reason to reconsider.

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