Detailed biography


The aftermath of Raff's death

Whilst both his family and his employers knew that Raff's heart condition was serious, his death during the night of 24 June 1882 was nonetheless a shock to all. Not only was his position as its Director respected by his colleagues and the students at the Hoch Conservatory, as a man he was also regarded with both admiration and affection.

Although in just five years Raff had already established the conservatory as one of the most prestigious and progressive of Germany music schools, he had continued to receive only a moderate salary and his family had surprisingly meager resources considering their social standing. Consequently his burial two days later in Frankfurt's Hauptfriedhof was in a crowded part of the cemetery and his modest grave was marked by only the simplest of headstones. Nonetheless, his funeral was impressive. Frankfurt's citizens had quickly become proud of their new institution and its revered founding director. Many of them turned out to watch the cortège and joined over 200 students and the full teaching staff, as they formed a solemn procession, winding its way through the streets from the Conservatory to the Friedhof. Raff's great friend, the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow arrived too late for the internment and so paid his respects at the graveside the next day.

Raff's widow, Doris and their 18 year old daughter Helene were left in straightened circumstances. He had never been good with money and Doris had gradually taken over management of their finances. Not only had he been unwilling to demand a salary reflecting his success in building up the conservatory, he had also altruistically refused the trustees' offer of a pension, blithely assuming that royalties from his compositions would provide for his family. It soon became obvious to Doris that this would not be the case and, although the trustees generously granted her a widow's pension, she quickly decided that they would have to move to more modest accommodation. They gave up the spacious ground floor city centre apartment on Leerbachstrasse and moved to a smaller one in more modest Wolfsgangstrasse, rather nearer Raff's resting place.

On 11 November 1882, just under five months after his death, Raff was honoured at the conservatory in a memorial concert at which a bust by the sculptor Dielmann (a friend of Raff's) was crowned with laurel and several of his works were performed by staff members. Violinist Hugo Heermann, Raff's old friend the cellist Bernhard Cossmann and the renowned pianist Clara Schumann played his Piano Trio No.2. It was the first work of his which Schumann had ever played. Cossmann was joined by Raff's pupil Lazzaro Uzielli in the Duo for cello & piano op.59, Bertrand Roth and Max Schwartz played the Chaconne for two pianos and various of his vocal works were performed. Hans von Bülow conducted Raff's Im Walde Symphony and was the soloist in his Piano Concerto at a concert at which Doris and Helene were present in Weimar the following month, as was Raff's old mentor, Liszt.

The honour paid to Raff's memory by his conservatory colleagues and its trustees was undoubtedly genuine and perhaps diverted them temporarily from the crisis in the institution which had begun to develop in the months leading up to his death. Triggered by the resignation after a dispute with Raff of the famous tenor Julius Stockhausen, who headed the singing department, the trustees had been putting Raff under great pressure to carry out far reaching financial and organisational reforms required, they contended, by the substantial increase in student numbers in the five years since the conservatory had opened its doors. Having taken advice from the conductor and pedagogue Franz Wüllner, they wanted to take as a model the way the Dresden Conservatory was organised. Clara Schumann herself approved of the proposals, describing them as "very admirable change" but adding "Raff ... is actually dangerously ill, and the gentlemen are afraid of the consequences for him if they promote (it) vigorously. That's bad!" The debate did become heated and Raff died, but reform was put on hold pending the appointment of a successor. In the meantime Bernhard Cossmann and Georg Vieth acted as caretakers.

Berhard Scholz
The founders of the Raff Conservatory

Above: Raff's successor as director of the Hoch Conservatory, the conservative Bernhard Scholz (1835-1916). He retired in 1908.

Right (left to right): The founders of the Raff Conservatory, pictured in 1883. Max Schwarz (1856-1923), Maximilian Fleisch (1847-1913), Gotthold Kunkel and Bertrand Roth (1855-1938).

Having considered Max Bruch, Friedrich Gernsheim and Stockhausen (who had in the meantime set up his own rival vocal school in the city), the trustees appointed Bernhard Scholz to replace Raff, at a salary almost double his predecessor's. It was a controversial choice. In the schism which had split the musical world, Scholz was considered an arch-conservative, deeply opposed to the "New German" faction which followed Liszt and Wagner. As director, Raff had preformed an admirable balancing act, appointing respected teachers from both camps and thus ensuring that the conservatory was seen as being unaligned in the controversy. Scholz's appointment dismayed the progressives on the staff as much as it delighted the conservatives like Schumann. Helene Raff wrote in her autobiography that "In itself, he was an excellent choice – one which my father would certainly have approved and which he had actually on occasions predicted."

As soon as Scholz took control at the beginning of 1883, what Clara Schumann described as a "revolution" took place. Scholz re-instated Stockhausen (who later repaid him by flouncing out again), re-organised the conservatory to satisfy the trustees' instruction that "a new order of things must take the place of the existing, often inadequate and unsustainable, one" and, in the process, dismissed some of Raff's appointees. Within months several more of the disaffected staff resigned and on 1 April 1883 they set up a rival Frankfurt conservatory, which they named the Raff-Konservatorium, saying that they intended to adhere to Raff's educational principles (and also no doubt to gain from the cachet still attached to his name). It opened with over 100 students, of which 60 had formerly studied at the Hoch Conservatory.

These sensational developments soon had the unfortunate consequence of driving Doris and Helene Raff away from Frankfurt. Helene wrote in her autobiography: "Giving the new conservatory this name was obviously an advantage and at Dr Hoch’s Conservatory the suspicion was that my mother hadn’t opposed it. In fact she hadn’t been asked for her agreement; she would have had to take the initiative herself in opposing the very men who held her husband’s memory in such high esteem. We had good friends in both camps and found it impossible to engage socially with one without causing ill-feeling in the other. What my mother also found very painful was the re-appointment by Bernhard Scholz of Julius Stockhausen to Dr Hoch’s Conservatory. One could quite understand that he wanted to win back these famous names for the conservatory. Unsurprisingly, barely a year later, Stockhausen resigned a second time – evidently because his artistic personality was not suited to fitting in and doing what he was told. However, my mother regarded his re-appointment as an insult to her husband’s memory. Thus there were more and more reasons to regard staying in Frankfurt as no longer desirable. Then one external circumstance served to turn a possible move into reality." At the suggestion of Doris' cousin, Marie Marchand, the pair left for Munich in August 1883, living in the same set of apartments as Frau Marchand, who moved there at the same time. They remained in Munich for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile Hans von Bülow had decided that Raff merited a much more substantial monument than his simple grave and became a leading light in setting up the Raff Memorial Fund, with the aim of creating one. To inaugurate the appeal, of which von Bülow became President, a memorial service for Raff was held on 8 January 1884, followed by an all-Beethoven evening concert in the Raff Conservatory, given by the great conductor and his Meiningen Court Orchestra. So bitter had the rivalry between the two conservatories become that, not only did Scholz ban any of the Hoch Conservatory's students or faculty from attending the concert honouring his predecessor's memory, Clara Schumann quite deliberately publicly snubbed the occasion by organising at her home a grand reception for Frankfurt's worthies the previous evening. Despite these petty attempts to scupper it, the concert was a great success and Scholz and Schumann only succeeding in making themselves enemies of von Bülow and driving him into the arms of their rivals. He held a second concert there ten days later and agreed "with joyful pride and prideful joy" to become the Raff Conservatory's honorary president. Shortly afterwards he began a famous series of piano masterclasses there which stretched over the next few years, the fees for which he waived in favour of the Memorial Fund. The Raff Conservatory went on to become as prestigious an institution as its rival.

Von Bülow's waiving of the fees from his masterclasses, together with the fees paid by participants and the public over the years eventually totalled 10,000 Reichsmarks and this, together with another 26,000 Reichsmarks raised by the Fund, enabled it on 23 May 1903 to unveil a grand memorial to Raff at an impressive ceremony in Frankfurt's Hauptfriedhof. The occasion enabled the rival conservatories which were an unfortunate consequence of his death to come together in his memory. Since von Bülow's death in 1894 the Fund had been headed by Max Fleisch, the director of the Raff Conservatory and one of its founders, and it was he who commissioned the imposing monument. The Hoch Conservatory, whose director was still Bernhard Scholz, donated the prominent location to which Raff's remains were transferred. His widow and daughter travelled from Munich to witness the rapprochement, almost 21 years after Raff's death.

[The translations from Helene Raff's autobiography by Alan Howe.]

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