Saturday, June 21, 2008

In Mozart's Shadow

Meyer, Carolyn. 2008. In Mozart's Shadow: His Sister's Story.

"In the beginning, when I was four, Papa sat beside me at the clavichord, the music book open to minuets and other short pieces he had prepared for me, and he taught me how to play." (7)

In Mozart's Shadow is a novelization of Nannerl Mozart. Several years older than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, she was a talented, gifted musician in her own right.  When Wolferl showed talent and promise as well, the family--mom, dad, brother, sister--went on the road together. The children performed together. Nannerl would have her time to shine. Wolferl would have his spotlight. They'd perform together as well playing duets. Their father would join in on occasion as well. Music was the family business. The Mozart's world revolved around music. Unfortunately, while many many people enjoyed their performances, money never really quite rolled in the way the parents hoped. They wanted fame, yes, but they also wanted money. Lots and lots of money. The father had a habit of living beyond his means, beyond his income. He wanted the best of everything. He thought that by spending money he would look aristocratic. And he thought that by looking aristocratic, people would give him more money.

These times together on the road as a family performing music were some of the happiest of her life. Unfortunately, the good times would not--could not--last. Sooner than Nannerl would have liked, her father stopped touring as a family. Wolferl, her younger brother, was the rising star now. He was the one that everyone hoped and prayed would be a big STAR. If the family were to make a fortune, to have a rise in social standing--fame, glory, success, money--it would be because of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And the father didn't want Nannerl along for the journey--not even in the background.

Nannerl's hopes and dreams would not disappear or dissipate overnight. No, she clung to her dreams, her hopes for many years. Many. But her happiness was not to be. Not at all. Her life was full of  disappointments, shattered dreams, and losses. It brings to mind Langston Hughes' "A Dream Deferred." Though she was talented, she was a she. There were not any famous women musicians, keyboard players. Women singers occasionally made it big and became stars. But not musicians. There was no place in that society for a grown woman to succeed in the world of men. The best she could hope for--if she wanted to keep music in her life--was to teach music. That and to play privately for family and friends and acquaintances and such. But there would be no career as a professional musician.

Though Nannerl's story is far from happy, the book itself is rich in detail. The people. The places. The culture and society. Hair. Fashion. Gossip. Those who love historical fiction will find it interesting I'm sure.



Nannerl's life is one of frustration. Raised by a domineering, controlling, authoritative, demanding father--worst stage dad ever perhaps--she was kept reined in even at home. She was in her early thirties and her father would not even consider letting her get married. He turned away any suitors that came around. She did fall in love. She did hope to marry. There was a man very much in love with her. But her father said never in a million years. She did eventually marry, but she never found love in that marriage. She married a man just as abominable--if not more so--than her father. Her true love stayed true to her even though they could never be together.

I'm not quite sure how well-known the existence the life of Mozart's sister, Nannerl, (Maria Anna) is generally speaking. (I was going to say with teens. But then I got to many adults are familiar with her? I just don't know. I certainly didn't learn of her until a year or so ago. And that was just through a conversation with a friend. She mentioned her casually. So maybe I was clueless and the rest of the world is more aware. Or maybe she's just well known in certain sets.)
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Sarah Miller said...

I am STILL WAITING for my county library system to get this book! (Not taking it gracefully, as you might have guessed...)

Clare - The Super Mommy Club said...

Hi Becky - I just announced my July Book Blowout - hope you'll stop by and sign up

Unknown said...

OMG! Earlier this year I was listening to a history of Mozart, and I remember wanting to know more about his sister and thinking that it would make a great book. And here it is! And by Carolyn Meyer yet! I have to read this book!

Lana said...

I really enjoyed your review! I've found so few who have even mentioned this story.

I've linked your review to mine.