Composer Alfred Schnittke has what could be the most provocative gravestone ever

22 April 2021, 17:12 | Updated: 3 February 2023, 17:44

Leonard Elschenbroich plays some blistering Schnittke

By Kyle Macdonald

A great composer of the 20th century left us with one final artistic testament: Rest in Fortississimo...

Deafening slience? A silent roar?

Alfred Schnittke was a Soviet-German composer, who is known for his monumental Symphony No. 1 (1969-72) and his first Concerto Grosso (1977). He also composed the score to John Neumeier’s ballet based on Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt. His early work had echoes of Shostakovich, but his music developed a unique polystylistic voice throughout his career.

Read more: 10 of the best 20th-century composers >

The composer died in 1998 at the age of 63, but not before he left the world with another deeply inspired work of art. One that embodied a creative mind that was always challenging, contradicting and elusive.

Placed in Moscow's historic Novodevichy Cemetery, his gravestone shows a fermata (a pause), over a whole rest marked triple forte.

Or in music: an extended silence, but very, very loud.

Alfred Schnittke gravestone
Alfred Schnittke gravestone. Picture: Imgyr / UberWagen

Another interesting fact about Schnittke, he was another of the remarkably long list of great composers who wrote nine symphonies.

He joins Beethoven, Schubert, Dvořák, Bruckner, Mahler, and Vaughan Williams who have all penned nine symphonic epics in their lifetime. Just in case that helps you out during your next classical music trivia night.