Memorials to Raff

Raff's death

Towards the end of her biography of her father, his daughter Helene records how his years of overwork as director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt finally resulted in a heart attack early in 1882. Raff had suffered mild heart problems for many years and his friend and physician Dr Neubürger appears to have concluded after this attack that a second was not only inevitable but would also prove fatal. Because, as she writes "he considered him lost", out of kindness for his patient the doctor allowed Raff to return to work, so that his final months could be fulfilling ones. Helene Raff takes up the story...

"The 24th of June was Johannistag. In the afternoon I went to the Conservatory and picked up my father from the trial of an examination concert. Heißgerber got us an open carriage. While we waited for this, Karl Fälten and his brother Rheinhold invited us to share in a small boat trip which they wanted to take. My father called from the open window which looked out onto the Main, and at which we both stood, and said 'No, no, I don't want to die on the water, I prefer the land for that'. They laughed and climbed into the boat. On the trip down, father was especially tired and quiet. Once he said to me in French - which he had taken the habit of speaking with me sometimes - 'Just look at the sunset, how beautiful'. It was a really wonderful red evening; the whole sky swam in rose and gold. Then my father's thoughts took another direction: our coachman, a clumsy man, handled his horse coarsely and foolishly, grabbed it by the bit, hit it needlessly, so that the animal reared up. In the commotion father didn't want to go to our house with this man but rather got out and paid him off. In the small distance we both travelled on foot he stopped a couple of times, breathed heavily and his face distorted painfully. - 'Is something wrong, Papa?' - 'Yes, a rheumatic pain on the left side'. Later I discovered that he had already complained to Heißgerber about it and had said 'I believe I'll get sick on the trip'. - He scarcely noticed my exhortation; I had the impression he was far from reality as if he looked only within himself. In the evening reason returned to him. The newspaper brought news of political events in the Orient - I don't know which any longer - which excited him very much and caused a long, almost painful, discussion. He went to bed on time on the advice of my mother since he had had in our opinion a day full of heavy work. The next morning my father slept an unusually long time. My mother allowed him the rest; when his barber came she decided to awaken him, unhappy though she was to do it. Softly she stepped into the room, called him by name - since he didn't move she leaned over him, took his hand - which was stiff and ice cold. As she raised the window shade in shaking recognition so that the light streamed in, her dead husband lay before her and we others then saw him. Peacefully laid out on a cushion, hands not clenched on the red quilt, but open: pale and noble. The head leaned very little to the side, eyes closed, on the still face a serious, peaceful expression. It was the face of one released. Dr Neubürger came as doctor and friend. He learned from Mama that she heard at about 11:00 a light noise like a clunk from father's bedroom; she had called out to see if he were awake. However everything was quiet; so she had thought that he had only drunk from the water glass on the night table, as he often did, and had fallen asleep again. The doctor said my father, probably awakened by light indisposition, had turned over and reached for the glass of water; in that moment the heart attack took place which must have resulted from the condition of a few hours before. 'The noise you heard about 11:00' he said to my mother 'was his last movement in this life'."

Helene Raff records that a death mask was taken by Johannes Dielmann (1819-1886), a sculptor friend of Raff. The funeral at Frankfurt Cemetery was held two days later on 27 June 1882.There are two memorials to the memory of Joachim Raff, appropriately enough in his birthplace of Lachen and at his grave in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Memorial
Frankfurt memorial
The Raff memorial in Frankfurt

Raff's body lies in the Frankfurt Hauptfriedhof, where in 1886 a modest memorial was at first erected at his graveside. The Raff-Denkmalverein (Raff Memorial Society) was established to raise funds through public subscription for an appropriate permanent memorial. This eventually raised over 26,000 Reichmarks, to which the first president of the appeal committee, the great conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, himself added another 10,000 Reichmarks by playing a series of concerts, the receipts from which he dedicated to paying for this monument to his oldest friend.

Under the leadership of von Bülow's successor as president of the Society, Professor Maximillian Fleisch (1847-1913, a former teaching colleague of Raff's), the task of creating the memorial was at last brought to a conclusion and on 23 May 1903, just short of 21 years after Raff's death, the new and very much larger memorial was dedicated at a more prominent location in the cemetery, to which his remains had been moved. The plot itself was donated by the Hoch Conservatory, many of whose teachers and students attended the ceremony. Raff's 77 year old widow made her last visit to Frankfurt from Munich to be present at the ceremony at which von Bülow, who had died nine years before, was represented by his widow Marie. Many of Frankfurt's musical establishment were there to pay tribute to the memory of their conservatory's founding director, who was further honoured at its 25th anniversary celebrations a month later, at which Doris and Helene Raff were amongst the guests of honour.

Appropriately enough, in view of Raff's antipathy to Wagner's Ring, the monument turns its back on Nibelungenallee, the road just beyond the cemetery's boundary wall. It was designed in a, perhaps rather brutal, monolithic style by the Munich sculptor Karl Ludwig Sand, who was also the landlord of Doris and Helene Raff at the time. A large bust of Raff, which bears a closer resemblance to the then-unknown Lenin, tops a tall cenotaph at the foot of which is an unclothed, life size sitting figure playing a lyre from a sheet of music draped across his lap.

Directions: The 4m. tall memorial can be found in its suitably prominent location at the junction of three avenues in what is now the "old" section of the greatly enlarged cemetery. Its specific location is D.298. After entering through the Altes Portal on Eckenheimer Landstrasse, in the south western corner of the cemetery, take the curved avenue to the right of the entrance. The Raff memorial marks the junction of this with three other major paths. There is limited parking available at the Altes Portal.

Frankfurt memorial
The bust of Raff at the top of his memorial in Frankfurt
Frankfurt memorial location
Location of the Memorial in the Hauptfriedhof, Frankfurt
Lachen Memorials
Lachen memorial
The Raff memorial in Lachen

On 11th February 1901 a concert was held in the Hotel Bären in Lachen, with the aim of raising money for a plaque to commemorate Raff in his birthplace. The stone was unveiled the following year on the side of the town's Gemeindehaus (Council House), which stood on the site of Raff's birthplace, the old school house. After many years the memorial stone was mislaid during a renovation of the building and was ultimately replaced by a modern plaque. The original stone has only recently been rediscovered. The replacement plaque is fixed to the north-eastern corner of the Gemeindehaus, which appropriately now houses the home of the Joachim Raff Gesellschaft (Joachim Raff Society), it's archive and an exhibition of memorabilia. It reads: "Here stood the birthplace of Joseph Joachim Raff 1822-1882. Pianist - Composer - Music Teacher" - the reference to Raff as a pianist is perplexingly misleading.

Raff was otherwise uncommemorated in the town of his birth until 1957, when a square in Lachen was renamed Joachim-Raff Platz at the instigation of a later composer from the lakeside community, the elderly August Ötiker (1874-1963), who was also present at the unveiling of the original plaque. Following the founding of the Joachim Raff Gesellschaft in 1972, it commissioned a modern memorial by the prominent Swiss sculptor Joseph Bisa (1908-1976), who drew inspiration from a sketch by the Society's first president, Anton Marty. Bisa's 3m tall monument was donated to the town by a leading Lachen citizen, Hans Wattenhofer-Flepp, and was unveiled, in the presence of some of Raff's relatives, local dignatories and members of the Joachim Raff Gesellschaft, on 29 October 1972. It is favoured by a lovely setting, standing in a small garden near the lake steamer jetty on Joachim-Raff Platz, by the side of Lake Zürich and only a few metres away across the square from the Gemeindehaus. The memorial's organ pipe motif is surprisingly inappropriate, as only one of Raff's 400-odd compositions was for that instrument.

Directions: The memorial is set in a small garden, on the south-western side of Joachim-Raff Platz, with Lake Zürich as a backdrop. The plaque commemorating Raff's birthplace is nearby, on the north-eastern corner of Lachen's Gemeindehaus on Seeplatz. There is limited parking available in Alter Schulhausplatz behind the church, and ample parking nearby in the lakeside Aeussere Haab car park.

Lachen plaque
Lachen memorials location
Location of the Memorials in Lachen: Plaque (above right) and view
of Joachim-Raff Platz (below right) with the Raff memorial on the far
right of the picture. The plaque is located on the Seeplatz side of the
Gemeindehaus, the three-storey building on the left of the picture.
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