Mozart’s sister

9th April 2009 | Musings, Travel | 0 comments

In the Mozart exhibition in Salzburg I learned some new things about his sister, Nannerl. I knew that Nannerl played the piano too – partly because there’s a famous painting of the two of them side by side at the piano, playing duets – but I hadn’t realised that when they were both young, her family considered her very talented too. As an eighteenth century woman, however, she had no opportunity to become a performer as her brother did. In fact, the more her brother was away from home on concert tours, often with their father in attendance, the more Nannerl was needed to hold the fort at home.

In her thirties (rather elderly to be a bride in those days) she married an older widower with four or five children, and she became stepmother to them, as well as having two children of her own. The exhibition said, ‘She remained an excellent pianist all her life, and wrote many compositions, none of which have survived.’ I hadn’t realised that. Why did nobody try to preserve the music she wrote? Her destiny seems too starkly contrasted with Mozart’s. I stood in front of her portrait for a while, thinking how things would have turned out if it had been girls who were given the opportunities to stride out into the wider world in those days, and men who were confined to the domestic circle. Would it be Nannerl who was world-famous?

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