Tuesday 30 July 2013

Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart: A Most Musical Lady

Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart (Salzburg, Austria, 30th July 1751 – Salzburg, Austria, 29th October 1829)
Affectionately known as Nannerl

Portrait of Anna Maria Mozart by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni
Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni

I have spoken many a time of the Gilflurt love of music and it's likely that you may have heard of a certain gentleman by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as he has enjoyed a certain measure of success. Whether you have heard of his sister... well, that's a different matter.

Before her brother had so much as touched a piano key, Maria Anna was learning the harpsichord at the knee of her father, Leopold Mozart. As Maria Anna flourished, Leopold added his infant son to the family act and before long the siblings were touring the capital cities of Europe. Though Wolfgang's name is legendary now, in childhood he often took second place to his extremely talented sister when she topped the bill during their recitals. The young Wolfgang adored Nannerl and together they invented their own languages and worlds of fantasy, delighting in one another's company as they travelled the continent.

Miniature portrait of the Mozart siblings by Eusebius Johann Alphen, 1765
The Mozart siblings by Eusebius Johann Alphen, 1765

Maria Anna's illustrious career did not last long though and at the age of eighteen she was no longer a precocious musical talent, but a young lady ripe for marriage. For her, there would be no more tours of Europe and no more high society recitals; instead, she remained in Salzburg looking for a suitable spouse whilst her brother continued his career.

As Leopold controlled his daughter's early career, so too did she defer to her father in matters of the heart. Despite Wolfgang's encouragement to do what she wanted, she turned down a marriage proposal from her first love, Franz d'Ippold, and waited for a more suitable match. At the age of 22 she finally married twice-widowed magistrate Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg, becoming stepmother to his five children. The family settled in the Austrian village of St. Gilgen and had three children of their own.

Still under her father's influence, Maria Anna entrusted the care of her first child, Leopold, to him after his birth in 1785. The reasons for this unusual decision remain unknown and the boy stayed in Salzburg until his grandfather's death in 1787, at which point little Leopold returned to his family, already having commenced his musical training. She did not see Wolfgang at all after 1783 and the two siblings drifted apart as their lives took very different paths.

When Maria Anna was widowed in 1801, she moved her children and stepchildren to Salzburg and took employment as a music teacher. Nineteen years later and nearly three decades after Wolfgang's death, she encountered his widow, Constanze, and her second husband Georg Nikolaus von Nissen. Two years after this she finally met Wolfgang's son, Franz Xaver Mozart, who had come to Salzurg to conduct a performance of the Requiem in honour of the newly-deceased Nissen.

Anonymous portrait of Maria Anna Mozart

Maria Anna's health failed in her later years; when she died she left a fortune in trust and was buried in St Peter's Cemetery, Salzburg. Though it is believed that she wrote some compositions none now survive and the woman who once topped the Mozart family billing is almost forgotten, a footnote in the story of her younger brother's own tragedy.

To find out more about the premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni, do click here!

No comments: