Everybody knows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the most famous composer in the world. But do you also know his sister? Let me introduce you to the musical genius Nannerl Mozart.
Actually, her name was Maria Anna Mozart, Nannerl was her nickname, and she was five years older than her famous little brother. When she was seven years old, she already played piano perfectly and that inspired young Wolfgang Amadeus to study music, like his sister did. So, when Wolfgang turned four, their father decided to instruct both his children and promote them as child prodigies.
The Mozart siblings toured across Europe to present their musical talent at royal courts. Organized by their father, they gave concerts at the court in Vienna, Munich, Paris, London, The Hague, Amsterdam, and Zurich, just to name a few of their stops.
Nannerl was Wolfgang’s first idol, and he would praise her musical talent in his letters. He even composed several works for his sister to perform. The siblings were so close, they even developed their own secret language and from time-to-time Wolfgang Amadeus even wrote entries in Nannerl’s diary, pretending to be her.
When life was unfair
But how come, so many people never heard of Nannerl? Well, gender equality was not a thing in the 18th century. And sadly, Nannerl Mozart’s is the story of one of the many overlooked women in history.
See, when Nannerl was in a marriageable age, which was 16, she wasn’t permitted anymore to show her musical talent in front of an audience, because society would not see it fit for a young lady to perform concerts. So, Wolfgang moved on and became the most famous and the best-known composer of all time, while Nannerl had to stay home.
Her father’s interventions
If this seems unfair already, I must warn you: This story will get worse! Some years after her career came to an end, Nannerl fell in love. And the gentleman, a young captain and private tutor, fell in love with her too. He proposed to her and everything could have been perfect. But father Leopold Mozart would have none of this. He forced his daughter to turn down the marriage proposal and the man she loved.
Instead, she had to marry someone else. Only to fulfil her father’s wish, Nannerl married a man who was twice widowed. Her new husband had five children from his two previous marriages and Nannerl, as their new stepmother, had to raise them and take care of the household. And although she did not marry out of love, Nannerl and her husband had three children of their own.
But again, her father intervened. Nannerl’s oldest son was born in Salzburg and named after his grandfather: Leopold. When it was time to return to her hometown St.Gilgen, her father insisted to take care of Baby Leopold himself. So, Nannerl was sent home without her newborn son.
There are many theories why Leopold senior wanted to take care of the baby. One of them concludes that he wanted to train a new musical talent, like he did with Nannerl and Wolfgang Amadeus. As a result, Nannerl saw her first born on some occasions, but could only take him home with her, when her father died in 1787.
Four years after that, Nannerl received a dreadful message. Her beloved brother Wolfgang Amadeus had passed away in Vienna. Constanze, her brother’s widow, and her new husband moved to Salzburg. They wanted to write a biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
And Nannerl did not hesitate to offer them help. She gave them all the letters of Wolfgang, addressed to their father and to herself. There were around 400 family letters, revealing loads of Wolfgang’s personal life. Thanks to Nannerl, her brother’s widow and her new husband were among the first to publish a biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
As for Nannerl herself, she worked as a musical teacher after her husband passed away. Her health slowly declined and eventually she became blind. In 1829 she passed away, silently, lonely, and unheard of.
Nannerl Mozart may not be as famous as her brother but she contributed a great deal to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s career. Without her, her little brother might not even have been interested in music. And even after his death, she continued to help and uphold his legacy.
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