Conductor Pieter Jan Leusink guilty of sexual harassment, according to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights

Conductor Pieter Jan Leusink.

Leusink’s orchestra, the Bach Choir & Orchestra of the Netherlands, known for the many performances of Bach’s St Matthew Passion and other squatters from the baroque repertoire, hired the musicians on a project basis. The conductor and artistic director should positions in the orchestra, on the condition that they allow themselves to be coached and accompanied by Leusink on a personal and individual basis. Part of this was an obligation to rehearse and spend the night at the conductor’s home.

According to the College, there was a dominant position. The conductor is said to have initiated sexual acts during those nights. Fearing that Leusink would ensure that the foundation would terminate their contracts with the music company, the musicians felt obliged to agree to this.

The events are said to have taken place in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2016 periods. Both musicians were at the beginning of their career at that time and are considerably younger than Leusink. When the women indicated that they did not feel comfortable with the sexual acts, he is said to have exerted pressure and emphasized that breaking the bond of trust would have consequences for their work with the orchestra. When the women broke off their sexual contact with the conductor, the foundation ended the collaboration immediately or shortly afterwards, according to the Institute.

Statements at Brandpunt+

The statement is not very surprising. It comes almost four years after the program Focal point+ (KRO-NCRV) made two broadcasts in which former musicians spoke about Leusink’s cross-border behavior. In 2018, the program spoke to twenty musicians who stated that mental and physical boundaries were being crossed. For example, he would have requested women to masturbate in his presence and he would have touched women unsolicited.

Leusink denied at the time; his attorney Peter Plasman labeled the allegations as gossip, backbiting and untruths that were traced to disagreements of a business nature. Leusink and the Netherlands Classical Concerts Foundation could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Different ad, same conductor

Lawyer Plasman cracked down on the procedure against KRO-NCRV, because not Leusink, but the foundation had to defend itself. Incidentally, the foundation would have taken measures ‘years ago’ to prevent relationships from developing in which there is an unequal balance of power. The Board is not authorized to impose compensation or sanctions on the foundation, but the decision does open the way to a civil court.

The allegations from 2018 had hardly any consequences for Leusink’s work. Concert halls hired by the foundation, such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, continued to welcome him; after all, there was no verdict. Major newspapers, including de Volkskrant, continued to print his advertisements, albeit in a modified form: instead of Leusink’s head, that of soprano (and Leusink’s girlfriend) Olga Zinovieva appeared. The conductor also drew full houses during the passion period: the Matthäus was performed no fewer than 34 times under his direction.

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