History Hunt: Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart

Today’s entry for the History Hunt miniseries featuring composers and musicians who were famous around the time of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is someone who was very close to him–namely, his older sister, Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart (called “Nannerl” for short).

I was first introduced to Nannerl through The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart, by Canadian author and poet Barbara Kathleen Nickel. I was even lucky enough to meet her and get my copy of the book signed.

Signed copy of The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart

My copy of The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart. It was also dedicated to my brother, but I’ve blurred out his name to respect his privacy.

Nannerl Mozart was every bit as much of a musical genius as her younger brother, and during her childhood and teenaged years, she would go on tours with her family. Sometimes, she would receive even more attention from audiences than her younger brother! But when her father thought she was old enough to get married, she was no longer allowed to go on tours with Wolfgang. In the 1700s, women weren’t supposed to make a living as composers and performers–they were supposed to stay at home and look after their husband (never their wife in those days). And while some women still managed to fight against the sexism of their day, it was very, very difficult.

While in The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart, Nannerl was able to be recognised as a brilliant composer in her own right, in spite of her father refusing to teach her how to compose alongside her brother, in real life, Nannerl was not so fortunate. Though she composed music that Wolfgang–one of the most famous composers in the entire history of Western European music–praised highly, her works were never published and they have since been lost. We can only imagine what they must have sounded like, and what it would be like if both Mozarts had been allowed to gift their incredible music to the world.

To Learn More (sources):
The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart by Barbara Kathleen Nickel
Maria Anna Mozart: The Family’s First Prodigy on Smithsonian.com

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