Sunday, March 30, 2008

Palm Springs

Yesterday's surprise unseasonal snow falling on cherry blossoms here in Seattle reminded me of Palm Springs. Not only is it possible to go up from the hot desert to a completely different climate in 15 minutes via the Aerial Tramway, the city itself had a rare snowstorm many years ago. If I remember correctly it happened during or around Christmas. This was much before today's digital cameras and roughly half of the films left for developing magically disappeared. As most of us remember, the companies only promised to replace a lost roll with a fresh one, never mind what treasures had been lost. Obviously many of the better pictures ended up as postcards or in publications in this case. It would have been next to impossible to prove that it was your masterpiece being reproduced. Even if your loved one was in the picture, it could have been taken by someone else than you.

Palm Springs was one of my favorite destinations during all the years I lived in Los Angeles. If I had a free day in the winter, I would leave for the desert early in the morning to make the first run of the Aerial Tramway in Chino Canyon to a winter heaven. There I would rent a pair of cross-country skis and spend a good part of the day under a dark blue sky (unless it was snowing). As the altitude was high and getting enough oxygen was a problem, I couldn't try to break any speed or distance records, but skiing even slowly in the middle of the woods in deep snow was truly exhilarating. It was always humorous to see tourists going up to the 20+ degree weather in their shorts. There they would be freezing in the covered upper terminal, shivering and eagerly awaiting for the next cable car to take them down. These days there are new rotating Swiss funicular cars replacing the trusty old ones I used to ride.

During the summer Palm Springs is a different story: I actually knew a person whose car was parked by the curb with windows closed and the driver's side plastic armrest melted from the heat. This probably wouldn't happen with today's materials but this was then. An air-conditioned shopping mall comes in handy in the 110-120 degree temperatures. I would hate to think what would happen there in case of a power outage during the hot season. For overnights Desert Hot Springs or some other outlying areas are much nicer, and were less expensive at least a couple decades ago. Unlike Palm Springs which has a microclimate of its own due to the pools and irrigated golf courses, the sky is clearer and at night one can see an incredible number of stars and feel one with nature.

That part of Southern California is beautiful and in addition to the Santa Barbara area still remains my favorite. Behind the 8,516 foot high Mountain Station stands the peak of Mt. San Jacinto at 10,834 feet and there is a vast wilderness area reaching Idyllwild, another pretty location. Another favorite drive of mine is from the Palm Springs area, past the Salton Sea, 220 feet below sea level, to San Diego via the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Much of the scenery is simply breathtaking and especially in higher altitudes it is difficult to remember one is so close to a hot desert as the landscape at times totally fools you.

One wouldn't expect to find much culture in a desert vacation destination and for a long time a local school auditorium offered the only venue for performing music. It was that location where I took a colleague in 1983 to hear the Helsinki Philharmonic play during their tour under the Community Concerts umbrella. The Finns were traveling by bus from either Arizona or Las Vegas, I can't remember. The buses were late and arrived an hour before the concert was to begin. The musicians must have been celebrating a bit too much. I can remember a fellow disembarking the bus with considerable difficulty and asking the audience members who were waiting outside, in Finnish yet, where he could buy beer and fast. I guess his hangover was quite severe. Once the orchestra got onto the stage and the show started, "Finlandia" was almost half way through before I recognized the composition. I was entertained watching a middle-aged female first violinist sitting on the outside who also must have had a busy night as she wouldn't tremolo with her bow. Instead she moved it back and forth like a lazy bass player. I felt somewhat embarrassed when the person I had brought with me asked if this indeed was the best my country had to offer.

A similar eyesore happened years later when I was playing in the new McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts with an orchestra. It had been brought there by a wealthy elderly board member. The conductor approached me at the intermission, asking what he should do as the host was unhappy seeing a younger woman not vibrating at all, and seemingly uninterested in trying her best. I told that there was nothing I could do: he had hired her and it was up to him to make sure she was doing what she was paid to do. Did she get into trouble? It was hardly the case; she was soon to be promoted. Testosterone is a powerful hormone and easily can overtake anything resembling logic and common sense.

The desert is a perfect place to learn first-hand the difference between Road Runner, the mighty Warner Brothers creation, and the humble little roadrunner, zooming across the road leading to the Tramway. As often is the case, matters such as people and their egos are easily portrayed larger than life, yet in reality they amount to nothing more than small critters.

photo ©

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wash My Brain, Please!

News media has been filled with stories of my native country’s “shockingly” successful school system. Here is a link to the story in the Wall Street Journal. Kids start school late, at 7, and usually don’t learn to read until then but become totally fluent within six months. There are no programs for the gifted, no “honor societies”. The youngsters listen to the same heavy metal and other headache-causing music and experiment with drugs as any typical Western student would. However, by middle school, they are light years ahead of most teenagers in other countries and nobody seems to understand this “miracle”. The Finns are more or less comfortable in many languages which in a small country with a highly unusual mother tongue is a must. Unlike here where the emphasis is on reading, and hopefully as a by-product, writing skills, plus rudimentary math, my countrymen as youngsters know their geography, biology, world history, chemistry, physics and even religion. The latter is taught in the individual’s own faith, or if preferred, as a course on philosophy that focuses on moral and ethical values. All the above is a no-brainer to me, and doesn’t speak so much about the country’s superior schooling as the inferior one in others, especially in America.

I am more and more convinced that population is kept ignorant on purpose. Masses are much easier to handle if they don’t ask too many questions and are easily brainwashed. To be sure of the success of the plan, just throw a fundamentalist religious element into the equation. All of a sudden there is no need for sciences. Knowledge of the Bible is enough. Those words have been translated from one language to another and back again, as in the case of Hebrew and Greek, and can easily be taken out of context and twisted in any way to suit the purpose, whatever it might be. No wonder only a small percentage of the population gives any credit to evolution as a science. We won’t believe in the lies that our world and cosmos is millions and billions years old instead of 5768. The world is flat (we can all see that with our eyes) and the center of everything. We have never been to the moon, except in science fiction books and movies.

We were told enough times that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were connected to Saddam Hussein. Now, 4,000 military casualties of our own later, people are finally feeling like they have been cheated, even if they choose to ignore the number of Iraqi civilian casualties which probably well exceeds the number of dead after our nuclear attacks on Japanese non-military targets at the end of WWII. As a result of the invasion and the murder of Saddam and his family, we were supposed to acquire an endless supply of cheap oil from Iraq. Well, the crude is approaching $110 a barrel and a visit to the gas station is always a shock these days. This, with the increase in food prices, is the real reason of the unhappiness of the masses.

Repeating a false fact often enough makes people believe in it, even those who don’t quite take the “if the President says so, it must be true” for real. In the art world a Benihana Veriyaki auditorium becomes a splendid creation in people’s minds, at least in a town that has become the retirement and nursing home for musicians and various directors alike. A new library is an architectural masterpiece even if people don’t like to visit it because they have trouble finding their way out. I look with sadness at pictures of this city’s old library that was torn down many decades ago. It reminds me of the similar institutions in New York City and Boston. Granted, it was probably getting too crowded and small, but surely there would have been a way to extend or enlarge it. At a time when anything old was undesirable, it was torn down to make space for an awful Lego-like structure which had to be demolished rather soon. Of course today we would designate the original place as a historical landmark, but it obviously is too late in this case.

Yesterday was Easter which for Christians is (or should be) the most important event of the year. Unlike Christmas which has a set day, Easter and other events following it are based on the old lunar calendar that the Jews and Muslims still use. Easter, interestingly named in English after a pagan holiday honoring the goddess Eostre, should be celebrated at the same time as Passover and even last year that indeed was the case. This year the Jewish calendar added their Second Adar month, pushing the Holidays 29 days into the future. Easter is celebrated as a festival of death and life, commemorating the murder and resurrection of history’s first true known socialist or one might even say religious communist, Jesus Christ. Interestingly, although Jews don’t give Him the credit due, Israel’s famous kibbutzim were designed after principles that Jesus tried to teach his people. He wasn’t fond of money and possessions, and would feel sick today seeing a popular preacher pray that all of his congregation members and television viewers should get a new Mercedes or BMW as they “deserve” it. Even now the authorities would have problems with Jesus, as in many societies, democratic and dictatorial alike, Christ would probably end behind bars for his teachings. The “religious right” would hate Him for befriending gays, lesbians and addicts, as according to the four Gospels (and the unofficial ones as well) Jesus always took the side of the unwanted and untouchables and was in other words a true troublemaker and rebel.

There are rumors that in a toxic dough few Antichrists of various kinds are trying to rise, in honor of their own festival, the Yeaster. Like in a septic tank, we know what ends up on the top. I won’t name any names; those who see themselves in the description know who they are.

Image from ITT website

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What is in a Name?

The tradition of celebrating Name Days, or namedays, started in Medieval Europe. Children were often named after Saints, so the Catholic Church helped spread the practice, although in some countries it was first thought to be more of a pagan tradition. Scandinavia has a rich history in this area and in my native Finland every day of the year, other than New Year's Day, the leap day of February 29th and Christmas have a name or a few attached to it. There are actually three different official nameday calendars in my homeland, one for the Finnish Lutherans, one for the Swedish minority and yet a third for the Greek Orthodox Church.

Tomorrow will be Ilkka's nameday, and if I were working in Finland, like everyone sharing this name I would be expected to provide a fancy cake for my coworkers for the coffee break. They in turn would provide the refreshments and probably sing "Good Luck", using the tune of our "Happy Birthday to You". Present giving is not usually done, unless it is something little within the family. At least when I was young every classmate's day would be recognized. You could hide your birthday but everyone knew when the nameday was. Interestingly, I wasn't named after a Saint but rather a famous Finnish rebel leader (Jaakko Ilkka) who in 1596 was defending the rights of fellow farmers who at the time were suffering from poverty and famine. He was caught riding his horse by some too-eager early bureaucrat who hastily had him executed, just to learn the next day of orders to capture Ilkka alive and bring him to Turku, Finland's former capital. It came too late as the man was already dead, but a great legend was born. There is even an important daily newspaper by that name. Some Finns in this country celebrate St. Urho's Day on the same day, March 16th, but this is not the case in Finland itself. The following day is St. Patrick's Day, another name day, although this year it was moved by the Catholic Church to today, in order not fall on Holy Monday which this year falls on 3-17.

Yesterday was the nameday of my beloved first and second grade teacher, Matilda. It is easy for me to remember because of the close proximity to my own day. In the middle was Risto, a Finnish form of Christian, a popular name in Scandinavia, and there always was some boy in the class by that name. Matilda, along with her husband Eino Varama, was one of the most important influences in my life. A small woman of incredible warmth and wisdom, she left a lasting impression on a small boy (we start school the year we turn 7). I realized that she was deeply religious when during the very first day of school, during lunch recess, I took out a pack of cards and started playing solitaire (Klondike, 3 at the time). She came by and didn't say anything negative but I felt like she connected card playing to gambling, or in any case it wasn't a virtue in her eyes. After school I rushed to my mother's clothing store and we marched together to the nearby book store and I bought a beautiful small light blue Bible with thin pages which were gilded on all sides. The next day I waited for the first recess to start, reached to my leather briefcase and pulled out the Book, explaining that I had this, too, not only a deck of cards. Her face lit up: I can still see the smile. I also learned what miracles faith can do: in second grade she was operated on for breast cancer which at that time usually meant a death sentence. For a couple months we had a substitute, but on Matilda's day she invited me and a few other classmates to her home for a small celebration and soon thereafter she returned to teaching. Ten years later she had another brush with death because of a burst brain aneurism. I was already studying with Heifetz in Los Angeles but her husband kept on writing to me. Nobody expected her to survive the almost two-month-long coma and temperature of over 104 degrees, but one day she woke up, wonderful as ever. The excess blood was removed from her brain, but unlike in most stroke victims, her emotional capabilities were not affected. If anything, she was sweeter and more loving than ever. When I graduated to third grade, Eino Varama became my woodwork teacher. He was also a gifted violin maker and during most lessons he just wanted me to sit in his "office", playing his instruments and offering my opinions. Then he would quickly do my work for me and gave me either a B+ or A- in my report card. A couple days a week I would visit their home right after classes, which was in a big building for teachers next to the school. Our friendship lasted until they both left this world; she first as she was 10 years older than her husband, and then he later, having lost sensation in his feet and hands and most of his eyesight. But both of them remained sharp as tacks to the end. I still think of them every day.

The Helsinki University is the official keeper and publisher of the Finnish Almanac. On their web site they have scans from the almanac pages dating back to the handwritten one from 1300s and printed ones from 1500s to present. The old almanacs had weather forecasts, information on diseases, horoscopes, in addition to data on solar and lunar eclipses and other important astronomical data, such as then-known planets lining up. I helped my father with his historical research since I was little and I don't have trouble reading the old script which to most of today's readers would present a problem. One finds interesting details in these old images. For instance "Gerardus" pops up in 1695 (Oct. 3), just to disappear eight years later, probably as unnecessary. An early name, "Narcissus", goes away but resurfaces in 1735 (Oct. 27) and lasts all the way until 1907 when many old Latin-based names disappear altogether, to make space for Finnish first names. "Ilkka" takes over "Herbert" on 3-16 in 1929.

There is a Finnish saying "Ei nimi miestä pahenna" which literally means "A man's name doesn't make him worse" but could also be understood as "Your name is your destiny". There was a fascinating article in the New York Times Science section just this past Tuesday. Titled "A Boy Named Sue, and a Theory of Names", it among other things ponders why parents give their children sometimes the oddest names. The Hogg sisters, Ima and Ura, were well know in Texas, and in spite of their names (or because of them?) managed to accomplish great things.

I like being named after a rebel leader; I just wouldn't want to be hastily hanged because of a small bureaucrat's orders. There are plenty of those around, as you know.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

All the Lonely People

"Eleanor Rigby" has to be one of my all-time favorite songs. It is on a Beatles album in my Cadillac's CD-changer and I must have listened to it hundreds of times in the car alone. Not many pieces of music keep on growing with each listening but this one does. I have even forgotten it is a "pop" song. I can listen to Kreisler the next minute and feel equally at home. Even the lyrics are incredibly potent and their message hasn't grown old in all these decades I've listened to the song. I even feel like I know Father Mackenzie, or a person just like him. I also love the "Yellow Submarine" which I have as a DVD, and "Eleanor Rigby" is the first real song in it. Our society and politicians would be wise to listen to the opening verse of "All the lonely people, where do they come from?" Our country is full of people like Eleanor, pictured here as a statue that the city of Liverpool put up. The denizens of that city seem to know when they have something culturally valuable, and also have the bravery of getting rid of parasitic people threatening their unique culture.

The loneliness of people brings to mind my wife Marjorie's sister Karen. She chose to become sort of a hermit and take care of her adopted son who at times had been at odds with law and society. A life-long smoker, she had been in poor health with COPD for some time. In January, soon after I posted my "Finale" essay, her son found her dead on the floor upon returning home after midnight. Among other hardships, losing both parents and two out of three siblings in a short time span would be a lot to take even for the strongest of us. Against my advice, my wife went to work feeling obligated to fulfill her duty for the pit band, and played a wrong note in a solo while tears were still flowing from her eyes. A couple weeks later a registered letter arrived from the pit band's conductor, pointing out the wrong note and accusing her of various other things, such as playing every solo in the 2,500+ hall "too loudly" and her standards not being up to the level of his "excellent orchestra". Now, we are talking about the same conductor who also directs a community orchestra and sorely lacks an ability to fix intonation in the winds and brass. At times the pitch can be hair-raising, at least during the few occasions I have agreed to sub in the pit. Dying can be dangerous to your family's health indeed. Needless to say my wife, a violinist of renown, has decided to put an end to dealing with such donkey's orifices. More details will follow on my blog in June. As I can testify from my own experience, there is life with nice people out there, but perhaps not in the place you are working.

The mail just brought a recording of the Jules Conus Violin Concerto among other great performances by Jascha Heifetz. Officially the disc is nowhere to be found and someone was asking over $100 for it on the web, probably thinking of cashing in on a hard-to-find item. To my delight, the reproduction of the recording had been reauthorized to and I had to pay only a tenth of the aforementioned greedy request. We do have the work on a LP vinyl, but I am not about to let a student borrow that. Interestingly, these also were two lonely people towards the end of their lives, both Conus and Heifetz. The composer couldn't hear his music performed in his native Soviet Union as he was Jewish and Stalin would have none of that; neither would many other Slavic anti-Semites, the Polish included. More on that will be discussed in a future entry. Heifetz was a victim of his own fame and also having the wrong kind of people around him. Like a lottery winner suddenly finding zillions of new friends, not to mention previously unknown relatives, the old master of the violin was also surrounded by people who wanted something out of the "friendship" for themselves. When Mr. Heifetz grew older and was no longer performing, or even teaching, there wasn't much anyone could benefit from. Those who stayed true to him did so because they cared and loved the man in spite of his less-than-perfect people skills.

I was up in the wee hours last night composing a letter to a dear student who is facing probably an imminent life-and-death issue in her family. I reminded her that her grandfather will be surrounded by a loving family and friends and that he will be remembered and cherished as long as these people live. Likewise, I know that if I were to die tomorrow, I have done well as a father and a husband, and that there even are numerous students that will remember me with kind and loving thoughts. It must be scary to be old and know that the Grim Reaper will soon call and have no one to turn to for comfort. That just might be the case for a Mr. Kerfuffle: he will drop dead kerplunk! Not even Kermit the Frog will take out his kerchief to wipe his non-existent amphibian tears.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Stool Sample

Recent emails and calls from my native country prompted me to think about the situation with performing artists with various degrees of physical difficulties in their profession. Most of these have to do with the ability to stand or walk, although there are occasions when someone has injured him/herself, usually resulting in a temporary problem or nuisance. I do remember a principal violist in the Bamberger Symphoniker (Bamberg Symphony, originally based on the pre-war German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague) who had lost his right thumb. Some genius had fitted his viola bow with four silver rings so that he could go on playing. As a young kid I was truly amazed to see him manage so well during the orchestra's visit for the Sibelius Week in Helsinki.

It turns my stomach when I see a soloist, often a female violinist, show up with a minor cut in a finger but a big white bandage, perhaps with a white bow tie, large enough to be seen by even the visually impaired. "How can she play?!" is the usual comment and an automatic standing ovation is a given, no matter how bad the performance. Some walk onto the stage with crutches, sit on a stool, and then exit in the same manner, often throwing the "needed" walking aids away as soon as the audience doesn't see them. And they don't need to be soloists either. I well remember, from decades past, an assistant concertmistress, whose husband, the concertmaster, would for months push her to her place in a wheelchair and then take his "bow movements". As soon as she was off the stage she would hop up, put her violin away and act normal. Yes, she had sprained an ankle or something at some point, but the charade was too good to give up. No business like show business. When I broke a joint in my left pinky three decades ago, I was hoping that nobody noticed, and continued working with just three fingers for many months, having taped the finger to the next with clear tape. I needed the money and managed even to play a solo or two by re-fingering the works.

Polio was, and unfortunately continues to be in parts of the world, a horrific disease. I was seven or eight before the mandatory vaccinations happened. An entire school class would march down to the health clinic and everyone would be given a shot. However, there were major epidemics when I was younger, and most kids were infected but only showed flu-like symptoms, so I easily could have been one of those. The unfortunate ones were paralyzed to a various degree, depending on how far in the spine the virus managed to wreak its havoc. Many lost their ability to walk and some even to breathe, ending up in "iron lungs". Today there are more portable alternatives for these unfortunate people. When there was a power outage near downtown some years ago in Seattle, one woman, unable to call for help, was shocked to find out she was able to breathe on her own.

Yes, there was Wilma Rudolph who was told as a child that she would never walk again, and yet she beat the odds and became the fastest female runner of her time. But most polio victims only regained some of the use of their legs, if any. The most awful part of the story is that polio's symptoms and pains tend to reappear after many decades. Some musicians have been victims of this disease and yet managed to achieve greatness. Everyone automatically thinks of Itzhak Perlman, the splendid Israeli violinist, but there is also James dePreist, a gifted conductor who came down with the illness a bit later in life. They both give a smile to the audience, yet I have seen expressions of great pain when they think no one is looking.

Although I am grateful for the permanent "handicapped" parking permit I have, for a person with disabilities, I would never dream of performing a solo sitting on a stool or chair, at least as long as I am somehow able to do without. Yes, it hurts to walk and to stand up, but I want the audiences to pay attention to my music making, sound and artistry, rather than wondering what is wrong with me. I work with people who limp and obviously are often in pain, yet these people do their work as a "normal" person would. If a conductor can do it, so can I.

This brings me to the communication from my homeland. It turns out that two people from this part of the world had shown up there to perform Wagner, among other loud stuff. As the conductor was using a stool, I was asked if he might be suffering from sciatica, or if American baton wielders often sit down, perhaps to cash in on the "pity factor". Most Finns have seen footage of the famed James Levine of the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Symphony and know that he uses the support of a stool. Also, James dePreist used to be the principal guest conductor of the Helsinki City Symphony, now known as the Philharmonic, until a critic with sharp writing skills and a mean personality (a dangerous combination) practically ate him alive with his reviews in Finland's leading daily. So, seeing American conductors sitting down in concerts is not a foreign concept. The Finns have a conductor of their own who is quite heavy and to my knowledge prefers (or needs) to balance himself on his tochas instead of feet. One email asked if perhaps the wrong person was using the stool as it might have been meant for the Wagnerian singer. I did not comment on this but said that the conductor had supposedly suffered a bone-fracture, as a result of having too much fun for his age months ago. If Hashem sees it fit to send him pain, who am I to criticize that. We all should realize our limits which increase every day as we age.

Our Creator gave a toad-stool for the toad.

"A Rubberband Fiddle" ©

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Under the Influence

The news this past week told about an Israeli scholar, Benny Shannon, who claims that Moses must have been under a hallucinogenic substance when he saw God in a burning bush and when he received the Ten Commandments. This, of course, is not a new theory, nor are many researchers even sure that the person of Moses ever existed. What makes this interesting is that the likely substance (ayahuasca) was named and that this all comes from the Holy Land itself. Local anthropologists in Israel have for a long time also claimed that events described in the Hebrew Bible could not have happened in the order they are presented. New towns and cities were built on top of old ruins, not the other way around. Had this all been published by Western scholars in Europe or especially in the United States, the religious right and Ultra-Orthodox Jews would have been crying blasphemy, reacting the same way Muslims have done to the Danish drawings depicting the image of Mohammed.

Many religious experiences and visions have long been linked to the use of psychedelic substances. Even in our country the Native People are allowed to use mescaline in their ceremonies. Spiritual leaders or shamans of people of Lapland and other Arctic areas have used mildly toxic fly mushrooms for ages. I remember having an Indo-Chinese mushroom dinner in Amsterdam the night before a recital at the Concertgebow and spending most of the night on the ceiling of the hotel room, looking down at my body. Unfortunately, that also made me physically ill and it was hard playing after throwing up all day. The concert still went fine. And remembering that this was Amsterdam, I shouldn't have been shocked.

Many now strictly illegal drugs were commonplace just a century ago, so it is hard to know how great a role they played not only in the world of heavenly visions, but also in artistic ones. Wine was often spiked with cocaine or Bayer Pharmaceutical's main product, heroin. Knowing how many artists, performing and creative alike, use these now forbidden substances and cannabis regularly, in the past it must have been much more widespread. There was no stigma attached to it then as there is none today to alcohol or nicotine, although drinking during the short-lived prohibition of course was a criminal activity. It also lead to the Mafia's rise to immense power in America. In Germany, Bayer had to decide whether to invest in Aspirin or Heroin, in both of which it held patents, and chose the latter as it showed more promise in relieving pain and suffering, not to mention women's "hysteria".

Musicians and other performing artists often self-medicate to counter the fear of being in front of other people, or to counter the terror a sadistic boss spreads around him. I know great instrumentalists and colleagues who reek of marijuana every time they play and the odor is still lingering in almost any workplace that isn't well ventilated, such as an orchestra pit. If it helps the artists do better, I don't have a problem with it, in spite of cannabis being labeled as a Schedule I illegal substance. Others take pills for their nerves, Valium or other such calmatives, or resort to a drink, an old and trusted method. Doing my "Arbeit Macht Frei" years I would often carry a flask and take a sip before a potentially unpleasant situation. The medical alternative of pills would make me too sleepy, and driving a car while the drugs were in my system would have been dangerous. The alcohol in a small drink of Finlandia would be out of my system well before the service was over, unlike Valium which would slow down my reflexes even eight hours later. Of course, there is such a thing as an alcoholic, but then we are talking about a serious illness. However, some of them have done well in the world of arts, as conductors or composers (my countryman Sibelius was supposedly capable of drinking anyone else under the table).

In a totally different category is a rather pit-iful conductor taking pills for another condition, perhaps in order to be able to please a girlfriend or a critic. Often I wonder if the "Maestro Viagra" or "Sir Cialis" is just trying to transform himself, in his own mind, from impotent to omnipotent.

"Burning Bush" © Ted Larson
"Sibelius Finlandia"
© Ilkka Talvi