Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Composers - Substance Abusers

Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Composers - Substance Abusers

Article excerpt


The aim of this article is to emphasize and summarize pathographies of eminent composers, 77 of them, who were substance abusers. In this section we can divide them into three groups as follows: substance abusers who suffered from primary alcoholism, secondary alcoholism, and those who were alcohol and/or tobacco, drugs abusers. Most of them had different anxiety and depressive disorders (neurosis, panic disorder, cyclothymia, manic depressive disorder).1

Substance abuse is the use of alcohol, tobacco and/or illegal drugs in a way that is harmful for health. Most of the composers mentioned in this article were alcohol abusers. Alcoholism is a syndrome of physical dependence on alcohol, whose sudden deprivation may cause withdrawal symptoms - tremor, anxiety, hallucinations and delusions (delirium tremens). Alcoholism impairs intellectual functions, physical skills, memory, judgment and social skills, such as conversation. Heavy consumption or alcohol abuse also causes following complications and diseases of different organs and systems, for example cardiovascular - cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure; nervous system - neuritis, funnicular myelosis, cerebral atrophy; gastrointestinal tract - gastropathy, ulcers, portal hypertension, acute and chronic pancreatitis, enteritis, cirrhosis of the liver etc. There are many substance abusers, but only a few of them (Dussek, Mysliveöek, Mussorgsky etc.) suffered primarily from alcoholism to such extent that their careers were interrupted and stopped because of alcohol abuse. Therefore they were unable to finish their creative work.1"1 In this journal we previously published pathographies of the following composers: J.C. Bach, W.F. Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Debussy, Glinka, Gluck, Händel, Liszt, Mozart, Mussorgsky, Puccini, Ravel, Schönberg, Schubert, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Wolf.


1. Pietro Marc Antonio Cesti

(1623-1669) Italian composer and conductor who was born in Arezzo and studied with various local musicians. In 1637 he joined the Franciscan order. While he was in Volterra he turned more toward secular music, probably due to the patronage of the powerful Medici family. There he also came in contact with Salvator Rosa who wrote librettos for a number of Cesti' s cantatas. By 1650 Cesti' s calling as a monk and his success as a singer and composer of operas were coming into conflict so he was officially reprimanded. In 1652 he became a court member in Innsbruck. After holding a post somewhere in Florence as maestro di cappella, he entered the papal chapel in 1660. In 1666 he became Vice-Kapellmeister in Vienna. He was described as unstable, stubborn, quarrelsome and often seeking confrontation. He had frequent disagreements with other musicians. His frequent changes of living places were caused by his conflicting nature and connected with his alcohol abuse because of which he had problems with the society. His health was impaired because of alcohol abuse, so he died at the age of 46 in Venice as a result of complications of alcoholism, probably poisoned by his rivals in Florence.2-8

2. Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf

(1739-1799) Austrian violinist and composer who was born in Vienna. He was a brilliant musician of great technical skills and soon became a member of the court chapels held by prince Sachsen - Hildburghausen, and later of another held by Bishop Adam Pataöic. Afterwards he was active in Breslau - Wroclaw and again in Vienna. He was a member of the royal orchestra and later a capelmeister in service of Bratislava Duke. He cooperated with J. Haydn and W.A. Mozart extensively. His musical drama »A doctor and a chemist« became very famous and was even compared to Mozart's »Figaro«. He was a master of »Singspiel«; he composed more than forty of them, and comic operas. He led a decadent life, eating and drinking excessively. He was one of the last composers living that kind of life. Later, he suffered from uric arthritis and hemorrhoids, what is more, he became almost paralyzed. …

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