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Rethinking Mozart

by sarah - August 19th, 2009.
Filed under: academia, news. Tagged as: , .

In recent days the life, and death, of one of the most famous dead, white, male composers has been in the news quite a bit. Even CNN.com has included stories on their main page, further demonstrating the force that a famous name can carry with it in today’s world.

Apart from new speculations over Mozart’s demise, there is buzz about the announcement that The International Mozarteum Foundation has made regarding two previously unattributed pieces found in the back of his sister’s notebook. The New York Times covers the news here.

What I find most interesting about this new music was that it were found in Nannerl’s notebook, Nannerl being, of course, Mozart’s largely forgotten but enormously talented sister.

Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (1751-1829) , Wolfgang’s older sister, was considered to be equally talented to her brother during their youth. They toured and performed together until Nannerl reached marriageable age and society declared her continued career to be unfit for a woman. Though she continued to perform and teach throughout her life, it was never to the scale that it could have been had she been born a man. The relationship between Wolfgang and Nannerl has been widely discussed by biographers and scholars who have recognized a deep personal and perhaps creative connection between the siblings.

Since Wolfgang has gotten the press since Nannerl hit puberty, it should be no surprise that the piece that were found in the back of her lesson book have been credited to be his creation. Though I’m no Mozart scholar, I think that there is reason to be suspicious as to the true authorship. The works are believed to have been composed in 1763 or 1794 when Moazart was 7 or 8 and Nannerl was 12 or 13. The work, a technically challenging movement to a keyboard concerto, was written in Leopold’s hand. Though we know that Nannerl composed, as Mozart sometimes wrote to her about her works, and was a highly acclaimed keyboardist, no one has dared suggested (at least publicly) that there might be a connection.

There is a clear similarity to Anna Magdalena Bach’s notebook, whose authorship has also been reconsidered in recent years. Whether or not we’ll know if these new and important works were actually composed by Nannerl or her brother will never be known. Though I would like to believe that it is true. Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart is just one of a list of women, sisters and wives, who have been long overlooked – overshadowed by the achievements of their male counterparts.

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