Memorials to Raff

In the Spring of 1882 Raff suffered a heart attack, the culmination of a long standing heart ailment which had first manifested itself in his youth. Despite this warning, the urgings of his wife and the sympathetic concern his colleagues and employers, his lifelong habit of hard work made him incapable of taking things easier and lightening his duties as Director of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, to which he quickly returned. It proved impossibe to get Raff to slow down. Although they were genuinely concerned for his health, a protracted dispute with the institution's Trustees during his last months at the Conservatory unfortunately brought with it more, rather than less stress. His doctor advised Raff's wife Doris that in these circumstances another heart attack was inevitable but, according to his daughter Helene in her biography of her father, both took the view that it would be kinder to Raff to run the risk of him working himself into an early grave than to force him to suffer the frustrations of living on as an invalid. So it proved to be and the expected second attack proved fatal. Raff was found dead in his bedroom on the morning of 25 June 1882. He was buried two days later in Frankfurt's Hauptfriedhof (Main Cemetary).

There are two memorials to the memory of Joachim Raff, appropriately enough in his birthplace of Lachen and at his grave 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 the new, much larger memorial was dedicated at a more prominent location in the cemetary, to which Raff's remains had been moved. The plot itself was donated by the Hoch Conseravatory. His 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 anniversery celebrations a month later, at which Doris and Helene Raff were amongst the guests of homour.

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 tops a tall cenotaph, at the foot of which is an unclothed, lifesize sitting figure playing a lyre from a sheet of music draped across his lap.

Frankfurt memorial
The Raff memorial in Frankfurt

Bust on the Frankfurt memorialThe bust of Raff which crowns the Frankfurt memorial


Map of Frankfurt memorial

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 cemetary, 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.


Raff remained 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). Following the founding of the Swiss Joachim Raff Society in 1972, it commissioned a modern memorial by Joseph Bisa (1908-1976), who drew inspiration from a sketch by the Society's first president, Anton Marty. Bisa's monument was donated by the prominent Lachen citizen Hans Wattenhofer-Flepp and was unveiled, in the presence of some of Raff's relatives, on 29 October 1972. It stands near the lake steamer jetty on Joachim-Raff Platz, by the side of Lake Zürich. The memorial's organ pipe motif is surprisingly inappropriate, as only one of Raff's 300+ compostions was for that instrument. A few metres away across the square is the town's Gemeindehaus (Council House), which stands on the site of Raff's birthplace, the old school house. A plaque to his memory is fixed to the northeastern corner of the building. Again, the reference to Raff as a pianist is perplexingly misleading.

Lachen memorial

Lachen memorial



The 2m. memorial (above) is set in a small garden, on the south-western side of Joachim-Raff Platz, with Lake Zürich as a backdrop. The plaque (right) commemorating Raff's birthplace is nearby, on the north-eastern corner of Lachen's Gemeindehaus on Seeplatz (in the background above right, behind the memorial and garden). There is limited parking available in Alter Schulhausplatz behind the church, and also in the town itself.

Lachen plaque  
Lachen map


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