How much did Sibelius’s drink?

Did you know Sibelius founded a drinking club in Helsinki, to help him fuel his habit?

Published: December 6, 2017 at 10:00 am

Sibelius founded a drinking club in Helsinki and endlessly consumed Benedictine. He would drink alcohol to strengthen himself before conducting a performance, and was known to vanish for days at a time. The final page of his diary, from 1944, features a shopping list for cognac, champagne and gin. The painting above is Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s work entitled ‘The Problem’, depicting Sibelius drinking with friends.

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Did you know: Sibelius moved to the countryside to try to give up his drinking and smoking habits. He wrote that ‘isolation and loneliness are driving me to despair…. In order to survive, I have to have alcohol.’ He endured throat cancer and died from a brain haemorrhage.

Now indulge yourself with….. Sibelius 2nd Symphony, 1st movement

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In 1940, Virgil Thomson, the music critic of the New York ‘Herald Tribune’, criticised this work as ‘self-indulgent’.

Authors

Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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