I Walk Among the Dead

The biggest tourist thing I did in Vienna was visit the Zentralfriedhof, the big cemetery where many famous composers (more than I’d realized from my research) and artists are buried, even though some of them were first buried elsewhere and then moved. So here are some photos. It seems silly to include so many photos of myself (taken by my wife Nancy), but after all, you can probably find most of the tombstones on Wikipedia, and the point is to prove I was there. (Click on photos for better focus.)

Here I meet the Great Man himself:

But here was where I got sentimental and weepy:


and with Johannes I felt a little confrontational (that damn lullaby, dontcha know):


Alex Ross told me to make sure I found Ligeti, and I did:


The monument is odd in that, if you look from the right angle, and only then, you can read his birth and death dates:


I’ve been told that Ligeti looked at my book on Nancarrow and pronounced the verdict: “Too American.” Thanks, György. Nearby was Ernst Krenek, whose name on the lower, flat rock has unfortunately become almost illegible:


Zemlinsky’s tomb, if attractive, was rather pretentiously jazzy, I thought, for someone whose music I usually find a mite turgid; there are some lovely songs and Die Seejungfrau is nice, but the Lyric Symphony has never impressed me:


I was surprised to run into Hans Erich Apostel, a name you don’t hear much these days (if indeed one ever did):


And also Egon Wellesz; I realized with a start that, for so familiar a name, I couldn’t remember ever having heard a note of the old man’s music, so while I was there I snapped up a disc of his 1st (unabashedly Mahlerian) and 8th (unconvincingly near-atonal) symphonies:


While we’re at it, Wellesz’s teacher the musicologist Guido Adler:


I actually fulfilled my threat of having my photo taken at Schoenberg’s tomb with a sign that read “LONG LIVE HAUER” – but I’m going to save that one for some future special purpose; it would give too much ammunition to all those who consider me the nefarious enemy of everything great in music.


I was amused to run across the arrogant-looking Franz von Suppé, whose Light Cavalry Overture I quote in my piece Scenario, so I do owe him something:


Gluck was there:


and Hugo Wolf, looking menacing despite the nude couple making out nearby:


Also Johann Nepomuk David, whose music I once had to write a program note for:


and Johann Strauss, whose waltzes I am fond of, though I found it inexcusably lazy that all the local Muzak systems relied solely on “Blue Danube” and “Wine, Women, and Song”:


His dad, too:


And to tell you the truth, one of the tombs I most wanted to visit was that of Franz Schmidt, whose chamber works and last two symphonies I’m very fond of (I hummed the Fourth the rest of the trip); I’m sure it’s supposed to be his muse, but the design suggests that he dreamed of scantily-clad young women, which I do too, but it’s not what I’d want to be immortalized for:


The only composers I had read were there and couldn’t find were Pfitzner and Czerny, but I’m not sentimental enough about either of them to consider the trip unfulfilling. I felt like I had seen enough of the old gang.




  1. says

    Very nice. Thanks. I thought I was the only person who hung out in EU cemeteries. Saint-Saens has a nice tomb in Montparnasse Cemetary in Paris, BTW.

    KG replies: And the Satie apartment is there, which I’ve always kicked myself for not looking up the two times I was there. I also, in 1989, could have probably heard Messiaen play the organ on Sunday, and didn’t think to research it. One regrets these lost opportunities forever.

  2. says

    Wow- you two sure earned the Grave Watching merit badge, and then some !
    You say you’d had enough, but here’s more anyway.
    And Pfitzner

    LVB started RIP-ing across town in Währinger Friedhof.
    Schubert’s wish was to be buried as close as possible to Beethoven (which ended up
    being a few graves away). In 1888, when Währinger was closing, Beethoven’s mortal
    coil was shuffled off to Zentralfriedhof. Schubert’s wish was honored esto perpetuum,
    he got to stay in the band, and as a bonus, empty Währinger became a public park
    named Schubert Park. (and thank you for the Zentimental Und Veepy caption)

    You might compare Zemlinsky’s memorial with Anton Webern’s in little Mittsersill.
    No smooth about it, that there granite headstone is crunchy.

    It’s a bit off topic, but I think one the most bizarre grave markers in Zentralfriedhof
    belongs to Falco “Rock Me Amadeus” Johann Hans Hölzel [1957-1998].
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

    KG replies: Dennis, I should have thought to ask the expert before I left. That’s all amazing. I think I can Photoshop myself into the others.

  3. Jane R. says

    In the spirit of humor: Be wary of mischievous former students who, at some distant future time, may scheme to render backwards the letters of your name, even deleting one letter, and have your own marker say NAG.