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The Other Mozart

As a kid, I watched the movie Amadeus on repeat.

The much celebrated, larger than life musical genius has fascinated people for several hundred years. On a backpacking trip to Salzburg, Austria in my twenties, I was thrilled to visit Mozart's birthplace.

In all my years hearing of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I hardly hear anyone mention his sister Maria Anna Mozart, also a piano prodigy.

Before the world knew of Wolfgang, there was Maria Anna. By age twelve, she was performing the most difficult piano pieces in existence as she traveled Europe on musical tours. She wowed audiences in London, Vienna, and Paris.

Taught by her musician father, she began on the harpsichord at age seven, showing an immediate talent for music. Her little brother Wolfgang also showed an interest by age two and greatly admired his older sister, who the family called Nannerl. His father noted Wolfgang's talents and invested in him right away. During the duo's musical tours, Maria Anna often got top billing. They played privately for nobility and in public orchestras, gaining a name for themselves around Europe. The reports of the time referred to Maria Anna as a "genius" and a "prodigy."

Two major differences occurred in Maria Anna's life in comparison to her brother's. She wasn't given a full education in music until age eight, while her brother was immersed in training as a toddler. Secondly, Maria Anna's father only permitted her to perform until she became of marriageable age.

At eighteen, her father put an end to her touring, keeping her home in Salzburg while he

put Wolfgang to work in Italy. Maria Anna resisted, and often quarreled with her father about his unfair treatment.

The siblings were very close in childhood. They exchanged many letters, and even composed music together. Unsurprisingly, they drifted apart as they grew older. Maria Anna eventually married, fifteen years after her father ended her career. She spent those lonely years composing music. Sadly, none of her work survived. She lived a long life, working as a teacher in her later years.

Wolfgang was prodigy. He also had full support from his family, an older sister who reinforced his teaching, and early access to intense training. There's no telling what Maria Anna could have been if it weren't for gender constraints at the time.

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