The last public smoker in classical music

The last public smoker in classical music


norman lebrecht

September 25, 2015

Yuri Bashmet-150x150

Yuri Bashmet, viola player and ensemble director, puffing away at a press conference yesterday in Rostov-on-Don.


  • Petros LInardos says:


  • ruben greenberg says:

    The Wagnerian tenor, Jess Thomas, once said that he didn’t consider himself a singer that smoked. He thought of himself as basically being a smoker who sang.

    • Simon S. says:

      Reminds me of this old catholic joke: “Is it a sin to smoke while you are praying?” – “Of course it is. But it wouldn’t be a sin to pray while you are smoking.”

  • Brian says:

    Yikes. I guess 20th century smoking laws haven’t made it to that corner of Russia yet.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      Or they are ignored, as they are in some places in Europe and elsewhere.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Resistance is not always undesirable.

    • Holger H. says:

      Smoking laws in the 20th century? A rare exception. Norway, Finland and a few progressive US states. Texas, Oklahoma until today have no smoking laws, trailing behind Russia which enacted smoking bans in 2013.
      Most of the anti-smoking legislation worldwide came within the first decade of the 21st century.

      • CDH says:

        Don’t know about statewide, but Houston was the only airport I had ever been in that forbade smoking ANYWHERE inside — in 1993. Not even in bars — I was on a layover of about and hour and a half and it was early, but I would have had a soft drink in a bar if I could have smoked. Had to go out to the parking garage.

  • Anon2 says:

    Don’t forget Barenboim and his beloved cigars!

  • Barbara Chasson says:

    I am a retired violist and at the age of 72 still smoke! No problems so far… a lung ex-ray recently showed no indication that I had ever smoked!

    • Petros LInardos says:

      Good for you. You played Russian roulette with your genes and won. I have relatives who lost.

      • ruben greenberg says:

        What a good image: “playing Russian roulette with your genes”. I think most people eventually lose. In the unlikely event that you won’t come down with a serious illness, you’re certainly not fit when you smoke: shortness of breath, fatigue and the rest.

  • Holger H. says:

    Correlation is not causation, but at the times when musicians even smoked and drank during rehearsals Lenny!) the music was better.

  • Logan K. Young says:

    Maestro Robert Spano is an inveterate smoker. Still.

  • g says:

    Smoking? Why are we talking about that pinky ring?