The Sibelius Forum The Sibelius Forum
A discussion forum about the life and works of Jean Sibelius
 
FAQ :: Search :: Memberlist :: Usergroups :: Register
Profile :: Log in to check your private messages :: Log in

Sibelius and Alcohol
Goto page 1, 2  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Sibelius Forum Forum Index -> Biographical Discussion
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Ads






Posted: Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:28 pm    Post subject: Ads

Back to top
Kurkikohtaus
Site Admin
Site Admin


Joined: 01 Jun 2006
Posts: 1164
Location: Praha, CZ

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:37 am    Post subject: Sibelius and Alcohol Reply with quote

Behind Mussorgsky and Glazunov, Sibelius can possibly be considered one of the greatest drinkers of all time among composers.

As a musician, I am probably an "above average" drinker, which would probably make me an alcoholic in any other circle.

The question I am opening up here is twofold.

First of all, how do all of you feel about Sibelius' alleged drinking? Are the legends exaggerated? Are they understated? Was his drinking separate from his art or was it an integral part? Hey, that rhymes... I need a drink.

Secondly, how do the artists among you feel about alcohol with respect to your own artistry?
______________________________________________________
I will put myself on the line here and answer that for myself.

I drink everyday, but I rarely get drunk. I usually have a glass of wine at lunch with my fish at my favourite restaurant, then another glass or a beer at dinner, depending on what I eat.

After concerts I drink 3 half-litres of beer (The standard serving in CZ, slightly larger than a pint) and then always stop, because I know the 4th one means trouble.

This is all pretty tame, where I tend to go a little overboard is with my appetite for martinis. I make them 5 parts Bombay Sapphire, 1 part Cinzano extra-dry, 1 olive, stirred. I usually have 2 or 3 in an evening, often when listening Sibelius or studying scores (Sibelius or other). I have never conducted a concert inebriated, and never plan to. I used to drink one dL of wine about 45 minutes before concerts, for over a year I don't anymore. But in some way, I feel that alcohol IS a part of my artistic being, and although I do not consider myself an alcoholic, I don't think I could give up my habits at this point in my life. On the flip side, my consumption has been at the level that it is for about 6 years now, I used to drink a lot more as a student in Canada.

There.

That is my confession.

I know this is very personal business, and if the rest of you wish to keep this discussion on the level of Sibelius, that is perfectly fine.

_________________
The Sibelius Forum - since 2006


Last edited by Kurkikohtaus on Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:06 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Andrew B
Conductor in Residence
Conductor in Residence


Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1130
Location: Brighton, England

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A fascinating subject and my reaction comes, as requested, in two parts…

PART ONE

I don't think that there's any doubt as to the veracity of most of the stories, nor any getting around the fact that JS consumed a pretty significant quantity of booze between the late 1880s and 1908, and then again from the period of the First World War until, say, the mid-1930s.

Whether the drink and the company he kept while partaking of it stimulated or inhibited his creativity is something that nobody can really say, but they certainly had an impact on it. All those evenings with Kajanus and company, with their wide-ranging discussions on cultural and philosophical topics... is it too fanciful to suggest that by such means his imagination was, er, fortified but the time available to put his ideas into practice was squandered (e.g. while working on the Violin Concerto)?

Some of the late-period, solitary drinking is a different matter. Again we can leave it to the physicians to judge whether the booze steadied his by then tremulous hand or worsened his condition. But if the result was works such as the Seventh Symphony, then I'm not complaining.

Sibb's diaries (now published in an excellent edition by Prof. Fabian Dahlström, in the original Swedish) are a great source of enlightenment here. Although Erik Tawaststjerna quoted extensively from it in his biography, the full diary contains much more and can be very revealing about his state of mind. JS was well aware that, at its worst, his drinking was a cause of unhappiness for himself as well as tension between himself and Aino. Let's take a few examples:

'Aino in town. – I am once more consumed by sorrowful thoughts. Where will my condition lead? Perhaps this solitude is a good thing. But – if I sit down in public with acquaintances, people will start to say: “he drinks so terribly much” ’ [18th Jan 1917]; 'She [Aino] is having a really hard time at the moment and is suffering terribly with me. Within me there sings an intimate, sad melody' [21st Jan 1917]; 'In town the day before yesterday and yesterday. Boozing with the depression that attends it. A terrible condition. Especially when, with my taste for the juice, I am doing myself harm in my own view and in that of others. At home a little clandestine indulgence to put my nerves in order’' [7th Feb 1917].

A number of months after the notorious concert in Gothenburg in April 1923 when a sozzled JS disgraced himself, stopping the music in the mistaken belief that he was taking a rehearsal, Aino wrote him a letter that pulled no punches. The actual letter seems to have been destroyed but a draft has survived (SuviSirkku Talas is working on a book containing Jean and Aino's correspondence from this period) and it is well worth reminding ourselves how upset she was:-

‘Dear Janne! – are you dear to me? – Yes – when I remember those beautiful moments in our life when we could and wanted to look each other in the eye, heart to heart. Now we have a layer of sorrow between us. I can’t help it. My life is so difficult when I see the dead end where you, once so strong, have ended up. Do you really hold your work in high esteem when it is a product of artificial inspiration? If you could see things the way I do – I, who with all the strength of love have tried to stand beside you, though now I can see that it has been worthless – you would not approve of your way of living, your way of working. Forgive me if I say bluntly that this is a way a weakling would behave, it lacks strength, and it is a great waste of valuable, or rather sacred time. I know that I cannot speak to you of these matters; you would not believe me and things would only get worse between us. But if you knew how terribly much I suffer on you behalf! If you don’t change, you will surely go under. And is that really the beautiful, great creation of God, that I have been regarding as sacred? Try to break free from that which is dragging you down. Haven’t you yourself noticed where it is leading? Even if you do complete a few compositions, they will be nothing compared to what you could otherwise achieve. Believe me. I have lived with you, and my great love for you has taught me to see clearly into your entire life. Don’t destroy yourself. Don’t throw away all that you are still capable of achieving. If only you knew what you are like when you’re not thinking straight. Your own judgement is then paralyzed, trust me, and be aware that in such a state you cannot create anything permanent. Even when you are conducting and everything seems to go more splendidly – it is not really like that. A more attentive listener will notice the difference, and that seems like a crime perpetrated against your own dear compositions.

'I cannot come with you to Sweden [for the première of Fantasia sinfonica/Symphony No. 7], as I can no longer suffer anything of the kind and I see that you no longer have the slightest appreciation of the advice of your only real friend. I, and your works from earlier times, shall remain here. With them I console myself so that I am not driven to despair.

'You have a habit of saying: “I am a miserable person”. How do you think that makes me feel? It tears my heart, but I cannot stop believing that you will be able to tear yourself away once more from that which is bad. You have been granted the strength of a great man.

'Can’t your sense of responsibility set the ball rolling? Pay heed to everything great and holy that is yours. I pray to you on my knees, and I believe that you can succeed if you really want to.

'Your life companion’

That letter may have signalled the beginning of the end of JS's conducting career - a contributory factor in the non-appearance of the Eighth Symphony, to be sure - but it didn't persuade him to climb on the wagon. We return to the diaries on 23rd/24th November 1924:

[23rd] ‘How infinitely difficult it is to grow old as an artist and, above all, as a composer. It might be most advisable not to have any friends. We all die alone, and it would be easier thus. Perhaps I must “descend from the mountain” – otherwise life will merely consist of waiting for death…’
[24th] ‘Alcohol is the only friend that never lets one down.’

In the end Sibelius did reduce his drinking, but this seems to have been as much a consequence of his changing tastes in his advancing years as any conscious decision to quit (though he clearly tried to do so in 1927, with diary entries that have a curious resemblance to the fictitious ones of Bridget Jones!). Funnily enough he had a taste of his own, ahem, medicine later on, when he and Aino were renting a flat in Kammiokatu [now Sibeliuksenkatu] in Helsinki. (They rented from June 1939 until December 1942 but only lived there for two interludes during those years.) Anyway, a while after they had left, Armas Järnefelt stayed there while on a visit from Stockholm and managed to consume Sibelius’s entire supply of cognac!

PART TWO

Make mine a gin and tonic, please. Beer and wine if it's of good quality. Finnish beer is generally very acceptable and, incidentally, when filtered through the human body, it miraculously turns into Swedish beer.

Can anybody (arenan, perhaps?) confirm the rumour that Leif Segerstam holds the world record for the number of cognacs consumed on a flight from Helsinki to Tokyo: a breathtaking 66 (yes, sixty-six)?

_________________

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
david johnson
Orchestra Member - Principal
Orchestra Member - Principal


Joined: 04 Jan 2007
Posts: 286
Location: arkansas/missouri

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i don't drink much, i prefer brandy when i do sip.
there is no cognac worth drinking 66 times on a flight.

dj
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Kurkikohtaus
Site Admin
Site Admin


Joined: 01 Jun 2006
Posts: 1164
Location: Praha, CZ

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andrew B wrote:
Finnish beer is generally very acceptable and, incidentally, when filtered through the human body, it miraculously turns into Swedish beer.

The exact same thing can be said for Canadian beer turning into American beer. A great line.

And thank you so much for quoting Aino's letter, that is very moving stuff.

I need a drink.

_________________
The Sibelius Forum - since 2006
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Ainola
Orchestra Member - Tutti
Orchestra Member - Tutti


Joined: 06 Jun 2006
Posts: 63
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Kurki for thinking of this topic and to Andrew B for a great response and insight.

Sibelius drank. Most of us do. But I think there is something to the Northern and Eastern Europeans that indulge in spirits more than the West or Southern Europe.

All the Italians drank, but in their notes were love for wine, not necessarily the desire to inebriate oneself.

I drank often and in quantity, but in the last while I have taken to enjoying a fine wine (or martini) occasionally. I think if I kept drinking like I did with Kurki, my Stolichnaya would sit out on my desk.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Badger
Subscriber
Subscriber


Joined: 04 Jan 2007
Posts: 24
Location: California, USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Andrew for the post on Siba's drinking.

I agree about Swedish and American beer by the way. I am American. There is some good American beer though, the smaller labels like Sierra Nevada in California and others. Samuel Adams is a good one too.

I drink wine with dinner everyday. Sometimes at lunch on the weekend too. I like to have a glass of wine when I get home from work too.

I am not a pro muscian (electronic engineer), but I do play guitar and bass in amateur rock and blues bands. I don't like to drink anything before I go on stage. I like to be in complete control of my faculties. I usually don't like to eat anything either. So, when the show is over I am ready for a drink and something to eat!

I don't get drunk either. I got that out of my system when I was 18. I don't like the feeling anymore. I little bit of a buzz (as we say) is OK, but not beyond that.

And thanks for the martini recipe. I'll have to try that. I usuallly prefer vodka. Does anyone have a good vodka martini recipe?

Badger
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Kurkikohtaus
Site Admin
Site Admin


Joined: 01 Jun 2006
Posts: 1164
Location: Praha, CZ

PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 6:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I prefer vodka straight, when mixed with Vermouth I taste only Vermouth with a strangely high alcohol content.

Stick to the real (gin) Martinis, and save vodka for the cocktails that were originally intended to have vodka in them, just my preference.

That said, this brings us to an interesting question:

What exactly did Sibelius drink? Does anyone know?

_________________
The Sibelius Forum - since 2006
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Andrew B
Conductor in Residence
Conductor in Residence


Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1130
Location: Brighton, England

PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was once told that his favourite whisky was Seagram's.
(Irritatingly hard to find here in the UK!).
Somewhere I've seen a punch recipe by the man himself - I'll try to locate it.

Nowadays, moreover, there's a Sibelius-branded champagne (special order, haven't tasted it YET but is reputedly good) and sparkling wine (not bad at all, and inexpensive) in the Finnish Alko shops.

_________________

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Harri M
Orchestra Member - Principal
Orchestra Member - Principal


Joined: 12 Dec 2006
Posts: 200
Location: Tampere, Finland

PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andrew B wrote:
I was once told that his favourite whisky was Seagram's.
(Irritatingly hard to find here in the UK!).
Somewhere I've seen a punch recipe by the man himself - I'll try to locate it.

Nowadays, moreover, there's a Sibelius-branded champagne (special order, haven't tasted it YET but is reputedly good) and sparkling wine (not bad at all, and inexpensive) in the Finnish Alko shops.


I think it was in an article by Vesa Siren in Helsingin Sanomat, which told about notes found after Jussi Jalas. Unfortunately I have lost that article.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Andrew B
Conductor in Residence
Conductor in Residence


Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1130
Location: Brighton, England

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I too seem to remember Vesa Sirén writing about it.

It can also be found - along with a long list of other nice things - at:
Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!


_________________

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
arenan
Orchestra Member - Section Leader
Orchestra Member - Section Leader


Joined: 03 Nov 2006
Posts: 106

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sibelius 9.4.1943 Booliresepti (Sadun ristiäisiin)



1 l vettä + sokeri + hillo + konjakki tai spriiterästys.
2 pulloa viiniä lisätään kun kaikki on täysin kylmää.
Bergamotte-öljyä pari tippaa sokeripalaan, joka
sulatetaan jo veteen.

(Huom! Kaikki kivennäisvedet tekevät boolin mustaksi.)

My very Finn translation:

Sibelius 9.4.1943 Bowlreceipt (for Satus christening)

1 l water + sugar + jam + cocnag or spree refreshing
2 bottles of wine, added when everything is totally cold
Bergamotte-oil, couple of drops to a sugar-block that will be melted to the water

(Halt! Every kind of mineral water will dye the Bowl black.)

Well, test it and let us hear!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
arenan
Orchestra Member - Section Leader
Orchestra Member - Section Leader


Joined: 03 Nov 2006
Posts: 106

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can anybody (arenan, perhaps?) confirm the rumour that Leif Segerstam holds the world record for the number of cognacs consumed on a flight from Helsinki to Tokyo: a breathtaking 66 (yes, sixty-six)?

I can confirm that Leif Segerstam is a force to be dealt with when drinking. But 66? It is possible. And I bet it is true but never let those rumours blind you eh? Finns drink for some obscure reason. All of our brains are added with lutherian ethics to our total pagan souls. I guess you could find something matchable with "The Vigor man" (the film, was this right?).
So once again more questions than answers...

On the other news; My favourite drink is free alcohol! Laughing
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Mark G. Simon
Subscriber
Subscriber


Joined: 05 Jun 2007
Posts: 18
Location: Washington DC

PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just discovered the website of Ainola, Sibelius' home.

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!



In the English language version of the site, they have identified a room in his house as the "saloon". They probably meant "salon", but given Sibelius' propensity for drink, maybe they got it right.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
World Violist
Soloist
Soloist


Joined: 08 Jan 2008
Posts: 538

PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know whether or not Sibelius was somehow "inspired" by drinking or alcohol, but I almost have a hard time thinking of a drunk man writing such pieces of music. Oh well, that's just me. I've not drunk a drop of alcohol, so...

I'm thinking nature was a larger impact on his music. He demanded absolute silence while he composed, so there was no plumbing whatsoever in Ainola. I've read that all he could hear was the wind rustling through the trees and those sorts of sounds... so I think it was more that than alcohol that inspired him, though the drink probably did affect his composing quite a bit. Just my thoughts on the subject...
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
kullervopete
Conductor in Residence
Conductor in Residence


Joined: 08 Jun 2007
Posts: 1911
Location: Bury Lancs UK

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sibelius himself admitted that when he stood in front of a great orchestra he was nervous, trembled and all was lost. However if he had a glass of champagne before the concert, then he conducted like a god!.--kullervopete.

_________________
Peter Frankland
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Tapkaara
Guest Conductor
Guest Conductor


Joined: 04 Jan 2007
Posts: 951
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't believe I am just now finding this thread!

I drink dark beers (Guinness being my favorite), Scotch, sake, limoncello, and red wine. These are my beverages of choice. I am beginning to enjoy light beers more and more. I do not enjoy mixed drinks.

When I was in my early 20s, (I will be 30 in November), I used to drink to get pretty drunk. Nowadays, I certainly enjoy beverages, but I cannot remember the last time I was genuinly "pissed," as they say in th U.K.

I play bagpipes and, within piping culture, there is a lot fo drinking that goes on. That is how I got exposed to single malt Scotch whisky. It took me a while to acquire that taste, but now I absolutely love it. I could drink it right out of the bottle...no water, no ice...just plain old smoky Scotch.

Yes, I think Sibelius must be considered one of music's great boozers, but what a dubious distinction! He is very lucky that he lived to such a ripe old age despite his penchant for smoking and drinking. Of course, one cannot help but remember Mussorgsky's fate due to his love of the bottle. What could such an original composer like Mussorgsky have been capable of had he not been such a horrible drunk?

Perhaps Kurki can confirm this...the Czechs drink more beer than any other nation?

Of course, Finns are notorious drinkers too. It doens't take many LAPIN KULTA beers to get the party started! Juodaan olutta, sitten!

_________________
"Music is not philosophy."
-- Akira Ifukube

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Kurkikohtaus
Site Admin
Site Admin


Joined: 01 Jun 2006
Posts: 1164
Location: Praha, CZ

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes yes, the Czechs regularily win the sweepstakes of most beer consumed per capita. For this honour (and it is an honour) we typically compete with Ireland, Germany and Australia. Click
Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

for the list that proves our supremacy. What is interesting about this is that there is a very strong wine making and wine drinking culture in Moravia, the south-eastern part of the country centered around our second largest city, Brno. There is therefore a substantial part of the country, perhaps as much as 10% of the population, who simply do not touch beer as a matter of pride. But this only serves to motivate the rest of us to make up for their foolish treason.

Tapkaara wrote:
I am beginning to enjoy light beers more and more.

Good man. Try this. You'll like it.


Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

.
Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!


_________________
The Sibelius Forum - since 2006
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Harri M
Orchestra Member - Principal
Orchestra Member - Principal


Joined: 12 Dec 2006
Posts: 200
Location: Tampere, Finland

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tapkaara, I´m impressed! Juodaan vaan!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Tapkaara
Guest Conductor
Guest Conductor


Joined: 04 Jan 2007
Posts: 951
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2008 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harri,

I studied Finnish fairly intensely years ago, but I must admit I have forgotten quite a bit.

I have a background in Linguistics and actually work as a French instructor. I wish I had more time to devote to Finnish because I truly think it's a beautiful language.

_________________
"Music is not philosophy."
-- Akira Ifukube

Only registered users can see links on this forum!
Register or Login on forum!

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Harri M
Orchestra Member - Principal
Orchestra Member - Principal


Joined: 12 Dec 2006
Posts: 200
Location: Tampere, Finland

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 5:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But how do you know Lapin Kulta?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Sibelius Forum Forum Index -> Biographical Discussion All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Goto page 1, 2  Next
Page 1 of 2

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Top posters
1. kullervopete
2. Andrew B
3. Tapkaara


Click HERE to make suggestions on what to do with this box!



smartDark Style by Smartor
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group
 

Abuse - Report Abuse - TOS & Privacy.
Powered by forumup.com free forum, create your free forum! Created by Hyarbor & Qooqoa

Page generation time: 0.18