Sunday, 30 October 2011

Roll over Beethoven!

Beethoven's grave in Vienna's Zentral-Friedhof

As in life so in death. At the time of his death he lived in an apartment in Schwarzspanier Straße in Vienna. He was laid to rest in a local graveyard in the 9th District of Vienna.

Later, along with the composer Schubert and the playwright Nestroy, Beethoven and the monument marking his resting place were removed to the Vienna Zentral-Friedhof.

Notwithstanding its claim to be 'central' this enormous 'central' cemetery is located 7 kms away from the city centre.

During the irreverent process Beethoven's monument was badly damaged. Perhaps Beethoven, recalling the great storm which struck Vienna on the night of his death, raged against this terrible disturbance of his peace and took appropriate symbolic action? I like to think so.

Be that as it may, a copy of the original monument was duly made and this is the one now in situ. Beethoven and Schubert remain the closest of companions just as they were in their previous resting place. In fact it was Schubert's last wish to be buried next to his hero Beethoven.

In the Musician's Corner of the Zentral-Friedhof there is also to be found the supposed grave of a certain W. A. Mozart. But in reality Mozart is not there. The grave is empty. It awaits his unlikely arrival. In reality it is a piece of macabre theatre.

Mozart, it is generally believed, lies in a communal grave in Vienna's St. Marx Friedhof, an old graveyard with guided tours, situated on the outskirts of Vienna. If that's where he really is then the music of cars and trains are his constant companions.

Also in Vienna the composer Vivaldi is another case of missing presumed dead.

Note that composer Josef Haydn's head was stolen by grave robbers on behalf of unnamed others. The theft was only discovered when it was decided to remove Haydn's body from his grave and transfer it to a purpose built mausoleum.

Josef Haydn's head was stolen in order that a secret phrenology examination could be carried out at Vienna University. The head then disappeared again, but was 'found' in recent times at the Musikverein; that is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Beethoven the prodigious wine-drinking grandson of a Belgian emigrant was a peripatetic man who lived at many and various addresses but nearly all in the Austrian vineyards; charming places like Grinzing, Döbling, Heiligenstadt, Mödling and Baden.

He suffered and died for his sins due to lead poisoning, whatever the doctors of the time have said. The lead was commonly added to the red heuriger wine to give it body.

Tchaikovsky? Even the Beatles got it wrong!

Roll over Beethoven and tell Franz Schubert the news.


  1. was it Chuck Berry who sang that or someone else?

  2. Hi Gerald, I only know the Beatles but I'll google for us!

  3. Chuck Berry, Beatles and ELO are first 3 up on google so I'm off to listen them all - especially looking forward to the ELO version. It might be a revelation!

  4. Well they're all good. But obviously Chuck Berry's original is the real goods.

    "We thought we'd start with a Beatles number" (Chuck Berry - London - 1972)


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