Cellist Jaap ter Linden has confirmed that his invitation to conduct a concert at this summer’s Oregon Bach Festival was rescinded after Eugene Weekly reported that he had been let go from a conducting job at Oberlin Conservatory over using a racial epithet in a rehearsal in 2015.
In an email and lengthy phone interview, though, ter Linden said OBF Executive Director Janelle McCoy was apologetic about canceling his invitation to conduct students at the festival’s Berwick Academy at a July 3 concert during the upcoming festival.
“Janelle told me they were very, very sorry, but in light of the situation in the university having to do with last year’s events — it’s a very sensitive situation regarding these matters — they were withdrawing [the invitation],” he says.
He was referring to last summer’s firing of artistic director Matthew Halls. OBF let Halls go on Aug. 24 amid complaints — which Halls disputed — of racist and sexist behavior. Full details were never made public, but some of the charges appeared relatively minor in subsequent releases of public records.
Ter Linden also provided more background on his dismissal from Oberlin. Because of scheduling problems, he said, fewer and fewer students had been able to come to rehearsals he was conducting there, and one day he made joking reference to a Dutch children’s book title from his youth, Ten Little N—-s.
The children’s book — as did a 1939 Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same title, later retitled And Then There Were None — uses subtraction as a story device.
Ter Linden, who is Dutch, said he was unaware at the time of the cultural load the word bore in the U.S. Now married to an American musician and living in Ohio for the past year and a half, he says he’s become much more sensitive to racial issues in this country.
“I am not a politician. I had no sensitivity for these things,” he says. “I have now seen what the situation is in this country, and my sensitivity has grown, of course.”
Meanwhile, OBF has announced its schedule for this summer’s festival, which runs June 29 through July 14. It will include two previously announced commissions. JoAnn Falletta will conduct the world premiere of The Passion of Yeshua by Richard Danielpour on July 8, and pianist Simone Dinnerstein will perform the Pacific Northwest premiere of Piano Concerto No. 3 by Philip Glass on July 12.
The festival will open once again at Eugene’s Hult Center, with an all-Bach program that includes conducting by Monica Huggett of Portland Baroque Orchestra and Seattle Baroque Orchestra’s Alexander Weimann; they’ll be doing four of Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos (Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5) and Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4. ■
Tickets go on sale to the public in early May. See more info at OregonBachFestival.org.