Can this record save lives?

Can this record save lives?


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2010


What you see here is a photograph that cannot be printed in any self-respecting newspaper in the year of our enlightenment 2010.

It shows a man smoking a cigarette. Everyone knows that smoking kills. Depicting a man in the act of lighting a fag amounts to an inducement to homicide. That’s why no newspaper editor will permit it.

So what is it doing on the cover of a classical record?

My first response, when I reviewed the record here and here, was that the German producers had erred against current codes of public decency and should, perhaps, have chosen another photo. On second thoughts, I think they were right.

Nine months after this photo was taken, the pianist in the picture, known as Solomon, suffered a paralysing stroke and never played again. Once you know this, the picture and its story constitute a subtle but highly effective health advertising campaign.  Don’t you think?





  • Laurence Glavin says:

    Prominent figures holding a cigarette was a conventional pose many years ago. I remember owning an LP recording by the pianist Leon Fleischer (taken before his difficulties) showing him holding a cigarette.

  • BobG. says:

    Back then, everyone smoked all the time. I think every photo of a soldier taken during WWII showed them smoking. There’s a photo in the current NYRB of a Dior fashion show in 1968 that shows Sophia Loren (looking fabulous, of course) smoking a cigarette. In this regard, Mad Men is utterly accurate: everyone smokes constantly.
    It’s well known that Americans have no tolerance for history, but I feel it’s a terrible abdication of responsibility to edit history to conform to contemporary prejudices. People smoked: it’s a fact. Don’t rewrite the past.

  • John says:

    I think that if a picture of a man lighting a cigarette is inducement to homicide, then the world really has gone mad!