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The Forgotten Mozart

Hello Friends, thanks for stopping by. I woke this morning feeling so very grateful. Grateful to be alive, for my family, friends, my home, my health, the natural world that shares itself with me in this glorious place that I call home. 

I am also very grateful that They Roared is finally in proper form and out on bookshelves. I presented Ilga, the beautiful soul to whom I dedicated the book, her copy last week. She had tears in her eyes, and I had tears in mine, as she hugged and hugged me. Then Fran, who has a chapter in the book, received her copy and while I wasn’t there to hug her, the response from her was equally emotional. These two women helped make the book's publication worth all the trials and tribulations - and there were many! Thank you Ilga and Fran. 

By the way, if you read either book They Roared or They Persisted, and like it, please leave a positive review on Amazon. It really helps. I am just beginning to learn about marketing. Not crazy about it, but I guess you have to do it. If you read either and don’t like it…tell me. I would like to hear why. THANKS!

Today I wanted to share a little about a woman who just popped up last week. Mozart. Right, I said Mozart, but didn’t say Wolfgang. This is his Wolfie’s older sister, who may well have been the brightest musical genius in that family.  Never heard of her? I certainly had not. Her name was Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, called "Marianne" and nicknamed Nannerl. She was born on July 30, 1751, in Salzburg, Austria. The forgotten Mozart.

In 2015, the playwright Sylvia Milo gave an interview to Huffington Post. She said that when visiting the Mozart home in Vienna, she was drawn to a family picture where Nannerl, sat playing the pianoforte next to her brother, Wolfgang. Milo commented: “My attention was drawn to the fact that there was a woman sitting next to Mozart looking like his equal…yet the things she composed did not survive. It just seemed to me like a story that needed to be told. If no one else was going to do that, I decided I would do it myself.”

As the exploration continued, it seems that initially, Nannerl was hardly in the shadow of her famous brother, but a bright star in her own right - shining brightly. Their father Leopold Mozart, wrote a friend: “My little girl plays the most difficult works which we have… with incredible precision and so excellently. What it all amounts to is this, that my little girl, although she is only 12 years old, is one of the most skillful players in Europe.” Yet, we have never heard of her. 

In 1762, the two Mozarts played a concert for an audience of aristocrats in Munich. Count Karl von Zinzendorf was in the audience and wrote later in his diary: “The little child from Salzburg and his sister played the harpsichord. The poor little fellow plays marvelously. He is a child of spirit, lively, charming. His sister’s playing is masterly, and he applauded her.”

Nannerl's musical abilities were impressive she played brilliantly and composed magnificent music. In 1770 she sent one of her compositions to her brother Wolfie and this was his response in a letter to her: “My dear sister! I am in awe that you can compose so well, in a word, the song you wrote is beautiful.” Tragically, while we know she was a brilliant composer, that composition did not survive. Or might it have appeared under the other Mozart name? We will never know. 

Stephen Jackson, a musical sociologist and anthropologist at Radford University in Virginia states that: “Musicians learn by watching other musicians, by being an apprentice, formally or informally. Being in a musical family with a musical sibling, in particular, can heighten one’s musical interest, expertise and musical drive.”

Born into a musical family, all of the children of Leopold Mozart (who was a court musician) were taught music at an early age. Nannerl was his firstborn, and she was playing the harpsichord at eight. Her technique was perfect and over time, her playing became even more brilliant and many believe that she was the inspiration for three-year-old Wolfgang, who was always at her side. 

Nannerl was a role model for the young Wolfie and taught him by example that music was not only fun but a way to fully communicate without words!

Milo discovered Nannerl copied some of Wolfie’s compositions for him as he dictated, when he was too young to write them himself. Again, this raises the question: could some of those musical transcriptions be hers? When Wolfie was in London composing his first symphony, Nannerl was again his scribe, but also orchestrated it for him. So, it is unclear and probably will remain unclear exactly where the boundaries were and what exactly their collaboration was. What is clear is that Maria Mozart was an extremely talented musician. 

In 1784, solely because she was a woman, the expectation, no! - the mandate,  was that Nannerl would marry, and she did. She stopped touring with her father, but she kept composing music right until her wedding day, when she was forced to give it up. Milo said of this travesty: “The society was as such that, of course, there were women composers, but the ones that could show their work were nobility. Women had to play for nothing. If they made money off their music, they were thought of as prostitutes. It’s so clear when you study history from the woman’s point of view that we don’t have the full picture.”  


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