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Mozart's Sister: A Novel Paperback – July 22, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Maria Anna Mozart (1751–1829), nicknamed Nannerl by her brother Wolfgang Amadeus, was also known in her lifetime as a musical child prodigy, but was outshone by her younger brother. In this energetic debut, Italian TV scriptwriter Charbonnier fictionalizes Nannerl's life, beginning with her tender years in the household of ambitious and tyrannical patriarch Leopold Mozart. Depriving her of her beloved violin (not an instrument for girls), Leopold forces Nannerl into a supporting role for Wolfgang, which Charbonnier dramatizes with melodramatic verve. Nannerl's adult epistolary love affair inevitably gets tangled with Wolfgang and his career, though the two remain close throughout his short life. There's a blunt immediacy to the writing (carriage horses t[ake] off with a whinny of euphoria; characters exclaim Holy Shit at moments of crisis), and Charbonnier is more concerned with bursts of emotion than period detail throughout. Deep this isn't, but it does capture some of the electricity than ran through the family. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“A moving tribute to the spirit of a forgotten sibling. Music imbues every gripping page, and in revealing Nannerl, Charbonnier also gives us a different view of Mozart, both rounding out and exploding the myths of his brief, tragic life.”
—Susanne Dunlap, author of Emilie’s Voice and Liszt’s Kiss
“A dysfunctional family, sex scandals, and true love?—eighteenth-century Europe was a far different world from ours, yet Rita Charbonnier’s skill and verve make us feel at home, and we cheer for the brilliant, resilient Nannerl as she struggles to become much more than Mozart’s sister.”
—Karen Harper, author of The Last Boleyn
“If you sympathized with Salieri when you watched Amadeus, wait until you find out what happened to Nannerl, Mozart’s sister. As brilliantly talented as her younger brother, she had a famous musical career that was ruthlessly turned into a mere addendum to his. Mozart’s Sister brings an intriguing woman back to life.”
—India Edghill, author of Wisdom’s Daughter
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Maria Anna Mozart, beloved nicknamed Nannerl, was the elder and only sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As children, both were considered gifted musical prodigies and their father, Leopold, arranged tours to display their talents to the masses in the grandest capitals of Europe. Both children could play the most challenging pieces and could compose into notes any song they heard.
They enjoyed a pleasant childhood, indulging their musical creativity and creating their own childish kingdom. As Nannerl and Wolfgang's musical genius progressed into composition, her adoring younger brother greatly praised and encouraged her work. At a concert, when he announces that the piece he has just played was written by his sister, Leopold is incensed. He orders Nannerl to never compose music again because in the 18th century, women did not become composers.
Thereafter, Leopold focused all his attentions on Mozart, not Nannerl. He refused to allow her to study the violin and composition. Leopold announces Nannerl must remain at home when he takes Wolfgang on tour and obliges her to give piano lessons to wealthy students to finance her brother's Italian tour. Her dreams shattered, Nannerl complies, but falls into a deep depression.
Victoria, one of her students, becomes her protégé. Through Victoria, Nannerl's passion for music is re-awakened. When Victoria's father becomes interested in her, he rekindles her spirit. Her relationship with Mozart, however, is plagued by years of separation and the preference of their father for his son and not his daughter. Nannerl struggles not only with the loss of her hopes and dreams, but also with the ever-growing estrangement with her brother and her father who refuses to recognize her talents because of the laws of society which will not allow a woman to enter the wold of musical composition.
Even her choice of suiters were one-by-one turned away by Leopold. In 1784, she married the magistrate Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg (1736-1801) and moved to St. Gilgen. Nannerl returned to Salzburg to give birth to her first son and left the newborn there in Leopold's care.
Nannerl grew ever more distant from Wolfgang, especially after his marriage to Constanze Weber. They resumed corresponding briefly after the death of their father, but by then, their affection for each other had all but disappeared and Mozart's brief letters to her dealt almost exclusively with the disposition of their father's estate.
When Wolfgang dies, Nannerl re-awakens to life and makes it her purpose to honor her brother by collecting and assembling all his compositions and erecting monuments to honor his life.
After her huband's death, Maria Anna returned to Salzburg and supported herself once again by giving piano lessons. She died on October 29, 1829, and was buried in St. Peter's cemetary.
Mozart's Sister by Rita Charbonnier is a heartwrenching tale of great genius denied. It tells of great triumph and equally great descent and the strength of one woman, Nannerl, to overcome the pain of living her life in the shadow of her brother.
Rita Charbonnier brings to life the brilliance of the 18th century with its tight social expectations, sex scandals, and brilliant personages. Her well honed theatrical and musical background is evident in the spectacular descriptions of the music and composition characteristic of Wolfgang Mozart. It is a compelling read, not only for those who love classical music, but for those who love sweeping historical tales of strong women. Brava Rita! Encore! Encore!
Consequently, when Leopold prepares to introduce his son to Italy, Nannerl is left at home under her mother's supervision, instructed to teach piano to wealthy students and forward the profits of her labors to father and son to finance their tour. Extremely close in their youth, brother and sister turn away from one another during Wolfgang's Italian tour, a young man feted and applauded, his music and charm the toast of salons. Of necessity, Nannerl bows to Leopold's demands, but doing so causes a lasting resentment of Wolfgang's burgeoning career. Her dreams are shattered; but much as she tries to cut herself off from her creative spirit, it is music that sustains this remarkably talented woman, hampered by the conventions of society. Surprisingly, the appearance of a talented young woman pulls Nannerl from her despair, inspired to help this girl achieve the notoriety she deserves, Victoria's doting father bringing unexpected purpose into Nannerl's life. In fact, it is through Nannerl's letters to Victoria's father that the story is told, the anguish of ignoring her talents in favor of her brother.
Charbonnier's challenge is daunting, but she successfully blends the Mozart's historical legacy with the lifelong commitment of a woman who aspires to transcend gender, her genius an undeniable gift in a world unprepared to recognize her capabilities. Her potential fame conceded to her brother, Nannerl's clumsy attempts at relationships are grounded in naiveté, hence very painful when confronted with reality. Still, music is her muse. In the end, it is pain that forges Nannerl's talent and her future, no one as champion but herself. It is Nannerl who secures Wolfgang's legacy, years of separation forgotten in an effort to save his work for those who follow. If Nannerl's emotional outbursts seem inappropriate in the context of the novel, perhaps this is predictable: her passion for playing and composing is not acceptable. As much as she seeks to control her natural impulse to use her gifts, at times such efforts fail. This is the great torment of Nannerl's soul, genius denied. Luan Gaines/ 2007.