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Famous Burial Grounds of Composers

Vienna, Austria

No cemetery in the world has more graves of great and illustrious classical composers than the enormous Central Cemetery in Vienna, Zentralfriedhof Wien. These celebrated tenants make the cemetery a famous tourist attraction for Austria’s music capital.

Johannes Brahmsdied on3 April 1897, and by this time the Zentralfriedhof already established itself as the final resting place of Vienna’s elite. Without any awkward post mortem-relocations, unlike some of his famous neighbours, Brahms’s original grave is located there, right next to his close friendJohann Strauss Jr. As one of Vienna’s most esteemed sons, Strauss passed away3 June 1899and he is buried with his third wife Adele, in between Brahms andFranz Schubert. Zentralfriedhof wasn’t Schubert's original burial place after he died on19 November 1828. In the delirium of Schubert’s final moments, believing he had been buried alive, he asked if he was lying next to Beethoven. This was interpreted as his final request, so he was buried as close to his idol Beethoven as possible at Vienna's Währinger Friedhof. When this cemetery closed, Schubert’s remains were exhumed along with Beethoven’s, and both composers’ were reburied next to each other at Zentralfriedhof. The original graves were preserved as a gesture of respect. The memorials are still there and the site is now called Schubert Park.

Beethoven on the left, Mozart monument in the center, Schubert on the right (Zentralfriedhof Wien)

Beethovenpassed away 26 March 1827, with his sister-in-law and close friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner by his side. A summary from Hüttenbrenner’s vivid eye-witness report of his death:‘At this startling, awful peal of thunder, the dying man suddenly raised his head from Hüttenbrenner's arm, stretched out his own right arm majestically—like a general giving orders to an army. This was but for an instant; the arm sunk back; he fell back; Beethoven was dead.’

Beethoven’s funeral procession by Franz Xaver Stöber

Other famous composers at Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof are:Christoph Willibald Gluck,Antonio Salieri and Arnold Schoenberg.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozartwas buried in an unmarked mass grave in Vienna’s St. Marx Cemetery. You can find a monument of an angel in mourning for him there, but his body is sadly irretrievably lost. There is another memorial commemorating him at the Zentralfriedhof.

Paris, France

The Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris also has an illustrious burial ground that holds the mortal remains of many of classical music’s great composers. No grave of a composer is more familiar to Père Lachaise's classical music loving visitors than that of Frédéric Chopin (died 17 October 1849), splendidly decorated with flowers all year round. All but his heart is resting there.Chopin’s heart, according to his wishes, is preserved in brandy in a jar immured in a pillar of Warsaw’s Holy Cross Church.

Chopin's heart at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw

Other composers that can be found at Père Lachaise areGeorges Bizet (3 June 1875) andFrancis Poulenc (30 January 1963).Jacques Offenbach (5 October 1880) is buried at Cimetiere de Montmartre in Paris.

Bayreuth, Germany

Both Liszt andWagner are buried in Bayreuth. Liszt at the town cemetery, and Wagner in the backgarden of his house, Villa Wahnfried, which is now a museum. Wagner's last music dramaParsifalwas premiered in 1882 and he died that winter, 12 February 1883, while he was vacationing in Venice. After his death a memorial concert was held in Weimar on his birthday. Liszt conducted the orchestra and he composed his Wagner Elegy (Am Grabe Richard Wagners). The manuscripts of the elegy bears the inscriptions:"Wagner once reminded me of the likeness between his Parsifal theme and my previously written Excelsior! May this remembrance remain here. He has fulfilled the Great and Sublime in the art of the present day. - F. Liszt May 22, 1883. Weimar''. Liszt became increasingly plagued by feelings of despair and obsession with death in his last years. He expressed these feelings in his music from that period, he once said: "I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound."Franz Lisztdied of pneumonia 31 July 1886 in Bayreuth while he was visiting his daughter Cosima, Wagner's widow.

Villa Wahnfried