Wilhelm Furtwängler, one of the 20th century’s greatest conductors, fled the Third Reich in 1944 after a concert in Vienna to settle in Switzerland. He must have taken a large bag of cash with him, since the same year he moved into Basset Coulon, an 18th-century estate, which Christies’ International Real Estate has put on the market for 7.25 million Swiss francs (Dh 30m). It currently belongs to Furtwängler’s family.
Furtwängler is a controversial figure, because he remained in Germany during the Second World War, and played a number of concerts at which Nazi officials were present. But there’s no controversy over whether his house was beautiful.
Set over five floors, it boasts six bedrooms, including a 23.5 square metre master bedroom – where Furtwängler himself slept, as well as a 40.5 sq metre living room, and a 42.5 sq metre Musiksalon – a room for the performance and appreciation of music. And after a long, hard day of conducting, what better way to relax than with a trip to the sauna? Furtwängler’s pad has one.
He is regarded as perhaps the greatest interpreter of Beethoven and Brahms, and some of his early tape recordings, burnt on to vinyl, are rare, expensive and delicious. You can sit on your balcony, blasting out Furtwanger’s 1942 recording of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to the pines, overlooking Lake Geneva.
The house has 15 rooms, and an interior 600 sq metres in size. You can sit and play the piano where Furtwängler did; you can wave your arms about in a conductorial frenzy to anything you hear on the radio, in an approximate imitation of the great conductor himself; you can play deep house and minimal techno, as a kind of ironic counterpoint to the whole purpose of making this mansion your home. And, if your musical tastes are broad enough, there’s also a jazz festival nearby.
It sits in 7,500 sq metres of Swiss alpine woodland, in the municipality of Montreux, and, at 400 metres above sea level, it offers beautiful views. Lord Byron once said it was quite a nice place to live. He may have had a point.