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LONGREADS: Like the Late Jim Morrison, Classical Musicians Like Valery Gergiev Take on the 'Rock Star' Persona

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Oct 07, 2014 09:38 PM EDT

Something that always fascinated me were the lives of old rock 'n' rollers. Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix were described by my father as "exceptionally insane" as he played them for me in his Mercedes as a kid. Had I known classical music produced rock stars like the world-renowned Valery Gergiev, I may have taken up classical guitar instead of rock.

That isn't to say that all modern musicians outside the realm of classical are tame. I've had tours that perpetually left my brain bleeding (you'd be surprised with who if I told you).

But, like Peter Culshaw at Noisey points out, the idea of the "rock star" is bogged down in wheatgrass shots and yoga pants. The seminal rock 'n' roller wouldn't' find a place, or even identify, with the growing music trends of today.

Instead, you need to poke around in a more unlikely place, somewhere that probably has a piano. Recounting nights of drinking in Russia's bar district, Culshaw's anecdotes with the likes of Valery Gergiev and, as he puts it, a "terrifically crazy guy" called Teodor Currentzis are alternatively profound.

All of them are playboys, apparently, of their respective fandom. From late nights with exceptionally beautiful and bright women to comparing private jets for longer drinking nights, I can't help but think Culshaw has mistaken Currentzis for Keith Richards.

And another piece of information he dropped in the story was that addiction was rampant among classical musicians. This doesn't come as much of a surprise as the lifestyles of these musicians does, but it also makes you wonder.

Cellist Rachel Lander, for example, recently talked about her alcohol dependency, proving that suffering can even come to those labeled with the highest class. From her article in The Guardian, it almost appears that being a classical musician is a shroud to hide under, just like an over-privileged youth hides under his or her parents' success so as to perpetuate that they aren't an addict to "X" substance.

But the vodka, the fame, the wealth and the admiration, it's all a swirl that one would think is limited strictly to popular music. Instead, these guys were all in bands, some of them ex-punk rockers like Currentsiz, who Culshaw quotes with a most pretentious reference to Joy Divison, saying, "I preferred [them] when they were Warsaw."

Hopefully there won't be a "27 Club" for these rockers as some of them are getting up there in age. But the term "rock star" probably should become more politically correct in the near future as the term doesn't denote any kind of rock musician but, instead, a more classical community.

Even Jimmy boy tried to give it a shot.

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TagsTeodor Currentzis, Valery Gergiev, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Culshaw, Noisey, The Guardian, Rachael Lander