Mozart’s forgotten sister. The sad story of a genius woman

When Maria Anna turned 18, she was forbidden to give concerts: she was of marriageable age, and it became indecent to perform at concerts. Thus the world lost a great musician.

When Maria Anna and Wolfgang Amadeus were children, everyone thought they were equally brilliant. But Mozart became Mozart and Maria Anna became the wife of an unloved man and a music teacher. And all because she was a well-bred girl and listened to her father in everything.

As a little girl, Nanerrl – that was her household nickname – played the harpsichord charmingly. Her father toured with her and Wolfgang all over Europe. The tiny musicians drove audiences wild: so small and so talented!

Maria Anna’s performing skills grew rapidly; at the age of ten she was playing the most difficult concerts, and soon she was earning very good money performing her father’s works.

“Maria Anna, though only 12 years old, is one of the most skillful pianists in Europe,” wrote Leopold Mozart.

But her father’s child policy was that the boy was a genius, a future star; the girl was his reliable partner in duets. It is true that Wolfgang began to write music early, while Maria Anna did not. But that was probably the case because her father did not encourage her to compose.


Later, as an adult, she sent her father and Wolfgang a piece she had written herself – and they appreciated it very much.

Wolfgang Amadeus tried to support his older sister in everything, he was not stingy with praise and asked her to continue practicing music: both writing and giving concerts. He said he had never seen anyone play the harpsichord as wonderfully as Maria Anna.

But at the beginning of the century before last women in Europe were not free in their choices. To make a career, to be established in a profession, not to betray her vocation, it was necessary to be very strong, it was necessary to dare to rebel against her father and even against society. Maria Anna was not particularly strong; besides, she was very young.

When the girl turned 18, her father told her to stop recitals. The wonder girl, the prodigy at the harpsichords looked cute. A grown-up girl on the stage of a concert hall was already kind of indecent. She was of marriageable age, so it was proper for her to think about her husband, her children, and her home.

Wolfgang Amadeus was responsible for his own life. He made his own decisions. Maria Anna’s father made all the decisions for her. And that did not bring her happiness. She was in love with the chamberlain Franz Armand d’Hippolde, and her love was mutual. Franz proposed to her, but her father forbade her to accept. He himself found her a husband.

Nannerl’s female fate did not work out very well. At the age of 33, in 1784, she married the magistrate Johann Franz von Sonnenburg, who was 15 years her senior. Her husband was twice a widower, and also with five children.

After their marriage they began to live in St. Hilgen, in her mother’s house. In time, Maria Anna had three children. The eldest son was taken in by his grandfather Leopold Mozart to study music.

At this time she became completely estranged from her famous brother, and after his marriage she had almost no contact with him. But soon after the 35-year-old Wolfgang’s tragic death, she gave his wife all the letters and papers she had kept to write his future biography.

After her husband’s death in 1801, Maria Anna and her children returned to Salzburg. She earned her living by giving piano lessons to children and adults.

Living in Salzburg, she gained respect among the inhabitants and enjoyed well-deserved esteem. She did not live in poverty (as some authors of biographies claim). Towards the end of her life she was very ill, and even at the age of 74 she lost her sight.

Mozart Maria Anna died at the age of 78 in 1829 and was buried in the cemetery of St. Petra is in Salzburg.

In the house in St. Gilgen, where she lived with her husband for a long time, there is now a museum dedicated to the life of the Mozart family, because her mother, Anna Maria, was also born there. Some music sheets with her works are also stored there.

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