Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or simply Mozart – the man whom we know as a musical genius for hundreds of years now. But do you know about his sister who was a genius as well?
Maria Anna Mozart was a child prodigy just like Mozart and his elder sister. Both of them learned the harpsichord and toured Europe together, performing several times. Maria who was a genius at her skill had to stop at the age of 18. Why? Because she was a woman. That’s the only reason why she couldn’t become as famous as Wolfgang.
Fondly referred to as, ‘Nannerl’, it was considered disastrous for a ‘woman’s reputation’ to continue touring in public. In the 18th century, the position women held was not at all liberal. the words, ‘women empowerment’ were alien back then. So Nannerl, stayed back at home in Salzburg while Mozart’s father took him touring. According to New Grove, “from 1769 onwards she was no longer permitted to show her artistic talent on travels with her brother, as she had reached a marriageable age.”
Nannerl’s skill in harpsichord and fortepiano (early form of the piano) was noted by everyone. Even after she wasn’t supposed to go on tours, she continued to write music. She sent letters to her brother Wolfgang and her father with the written music. There are records of Wolfgang praising her work and calling it ‘beautiful’ but nothing about her father talking about her work has been found in his correspondence.
It is known that Nannerl and Wolfgang shared a healthy bond. When Nannerl fell in love with a captain, Franz d’Ippold and their father disapproved of it, Wolfgang stood by her encouraging her to get married to him. But she was not like Wolfgang who rebelled, she chose to submit to her father’s wishes and later got married to a magistrate, Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg.
It is not very known that Nannerl was also Mozart’s inspiration. According to Maynard Solomon the author of the book ‘Mozart: A Life’, “at three, Mozart was inspired to study music by observing his father’s instruction of Marianne; he wanted to be like her.” They also used to play a game called the Kingdom of Back as children and pretended to be king and queen. They also invented a secret language.
But as adults, there are two views on their relationship. One says that they remained deeply attached, another says they grew apart and never saw each other’s children.
Another fact about her life is disturbing. When her first son was born, she named him Leopold after her father Leopold Mozart. As grandfather, Leopold Mozart said they he would look after the child in his initial years alone, away from his parents. Later, the arrangement was extended for an indefinite period of time where Nannerl rarely saw her boy and had almost no say in his life. Until the day Leopold Mozart died the arrangement continued.
None of the works of Maria Anna Mozart survive today. She is a genius lost in time.