Famous Alcoholics: Beethoven?

by The Discovering Alcoholic on December 7, 2008

Beethoven Abuses at The Discovering AlcoholicConsidered by some as the greatest composer of all time, there is no doubt that Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) created a musical legacy that continues to be enjoyed today from the concert hall to its use in over 250 films and television programs.

At TDA however, while we most surely enjoy his music- we are more considered with his drinking habits. While it seems to be in question whether or not Beethoven was an alcoholic, there is no doubt that he was an abusive drinker- a trait that led to his eventual demise.

Experienced clinicians always attempt to find a single diagnosis to explain the patient’s findings. Although it seems impossible to attribute all of Beethoven’s symptoms and signs to one cause, many of Beethoven’s problems can be attributed to his drinking. ~ The Case of the Jaundiced Musician

One thing that historians do agree upon is that Beethoven most definitely did suffer from alcoholism in the collateral sense, as it is considered a historical fact that his father was an alcoholic with a cruelty streak. Some even contribute Beethoven’s eventual deafness to early beatings administered by his father during musical lessons. As it still happens today though, these bad childhood experiences with alcohol did little to discourage his use later in life.

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Enough with the bad livers and dead alcoholics! Not wanting to start you off in the new week on a depressing note I’ll leave you with a bit of humor that nevertheless sticks to our topics of classical music, Beethoven, and intoxication.

The Boston Symphony was performing Beethoven’s Ninth. In the piece, there’s a long passage about 20 minutes during which the bass violinists have nothing to do. Rather than sit around the whole time looking stupid, some bassists decided to sneak offstage and go to the tavern next door for a quick one.

After slamming several beers in quick succession (as bass violinists are prone to do), one of them looked at his watch. “Hey! We need to get back!”

“No need to panic,” said a fellow bassist. “I thought we might need some extra time, so I tied the last few pages of the conductor’s score together with string. It’ll take him a few minutes to get it untangled.”

A few moments later they staggered back to the concert hall and took their places in the orchestra. About this time, a member of the audience noticed the conductor seemed a bit edgy and said as much to her companion.

“Well, of course,” said her companion. “Don’t you see?
It’s the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded.” ~ Humor

This version takes the joke a step further.

A conductor was putting on a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at 8. Unfortunately, his chorus couldn’t be there until 6, so he started rehearsal without them. In the middle of the rehearsal, the air conditioning broke, so they brought out huge fans to keep the orchestra cool. This worked, but the conductor’s score kept blowing away, so he had to tie it down. During this, the bass section and two cellists decided that they had had enough, so they went to the tavern across the street and got really drunk. In fact, the two cellists never came back. So six-o-clock rolls around and the chorus arrived. By then the air conditioning had been fixed and they continued with the rehearsal. Finally, it was 8 and the concert began. The concert was almost finished when the air conditioning went out again, so the fans were brought out and the conductor tied his score down. It was very hard to try and turn the page while conducting, and he was about to quit, because it was the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied, the basses were loaded, there were two outs, and the fans were going wild. ~ TheFrenchHorn

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