Beethoven Orders Shutters for His Summer House
by Wayne Austin, November 2008
In 1823, Beethoven rented a summerhouse in Baden as he worked on the Ninth Symphony. Beethoven frequently spent the summer in a resort away from Vienna, and the summer of 1823 was no exception. However, in this particular case the landlord made a very unusual request. He insisted on an “unconditional requirement” that Beethoven have slatted shutters installed on the front facing windows of the house. Why would the landlord make such a strange request of Beethoven as a requirement of his tenancy? When asked, the landlord responded, “The shutters were needed to spare the composer’s suffering eyes from the harsh sunlight.”
Beethoven (contrary to his nature) immediately complied with the request and moved in. But what was the real reason for this strange request? According to Anton Schindler, Beethoven—during his stay in this same cottage the previous year—acquired the habit of standing in front of the open window, gazing out and jotting down notes on the individual louvers of the shutters which included mathematical calculations, musical notes and in fact “a whole stream of consciousness written out in pencil so that these thin boards [louvers] formed a kind of diary.” Actually, each of the louvers of the shutters may have sequentially represented an individual day at the resort. The landlord had observed this unusual behavior and had sold the shutters from the previous year for a piece of gold each to other guests as a kind of souvenir. In the words of Schindler, “Once he realized the value of his window-shutters and their inscriptions, the landlord had no trouble in selling all four pieces to other guests in the baths.” The landlord had discovered a secondary source of income. It is said that when Beethoven was told of this strange commerce “he exploded in Homeric laughter.”
The above incident was recorded and given to us by Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s friend and first biographer.
It is not known if these souvenir shutters still exist and there is no mention of the manufacturer of the shutters.