10 composers who smoked

10 composers who smoked


norman lebrecht

April 19, 2015

1 Maurice Ravel on the go

maurice ravel smoking

2 Puccini lighting up

puccini smoking

3 Mahler has a pull, in New York

mahler cigarette

4 Gershwin can’t compose without it

gershwin smoking

5 Not in rehearsal, Lenny, please…


6 Debussy, always at it

debussy smoking2

7 Arthur Honegger smoked a pipe

arthur honegger smoking

8 Arnold Schoenberg inhales

arnold-schoenberg smoking

9 Sibelius, with cigar

sibelius at home

10 DSCH gets a light


all pictures from LebrechtMusic&Arts


  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    Were there any great composers who didn’t smoke (cigarette, cigar, pipe)?

    • Hilary says:

      That question posed more of a problem than i had anticipated: Benjamin Britten+Michael Tippett are the 2 composers who spring to mind.
      In more recent times, Babbitt + Carter.

    • Mikey says:

      I don’t smoke 😉

      (hopefully, one day I’ll be considered “great”)

  • Pirkko says:

    Bohuslav Martinu was a heavy smoker.

  • T-ARAFANBOY says:

    I like the dry and uninspired ‘Honegger smoked a pipe’…

  • Brian says:

    The next obvious question is, how many died from smoking-related illnesses. Shostakovich died of lung cancer. Puccini, throat cancer followed by a heart attack. Bernstein, heart attack after having emphysema for a number of years. Probably many others.

    • Hilary says:

      I’m pleased you chirped in with that or this feature comes close to promoting smoking.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Well, hardly. It’s more an observation, rather like the post on composers and cars a while back. Let’s not get too PC.

  • Ed says:

    Stravinsky, Chabrier, Dukas, Kurt Weill, Eisler…

  • Halldor says:

    Surprised no-one’s mentioned Mozart yet – who writes in his letters of enjoying ‘a pipe of good tobacco’. (Usually while playing billiards).

    Another reason to love him.

  • Emily G. says:

    I believe Bach and Schubert smoked pipes, as well.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Bach (J.S.) did not drink, did not smoke, was a vegetarian, rised early and went to bed early, changed wigs every week, went to the gym every 2 days, and took a daily walk in Leipzig from 17:15 till 17:45. But he put all the energies left after composing into procreating: 20 children in total.

      • Patrick Diviney says:

        Didn’t drink or smoke?? Au contraire! In The Bach Reader is a letter regarding a gift of either wine or ale (can’t remember which). Plus water was not that safe back then. Also he wrote a piece titled “Gentle Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker. Oh yes, he indulged in both.