The Writer’s Almanac, my new favorite source of blog material, tells us that today is the birthday of Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart in 1751, Wolfgang’s older sister. She was a child prodigy on the harpsichord and clavier and when she and her brother toured together as children, she often received top billing. She composed, too–Wikipedia tells us “there are letters from her brother praising her work”–but nothing she wrote survives. After she reached her teens, her parents didn’t allow her to tour, she stopped performing and probably composing, and she ended up getting married, raising a family, and giving piano lessons.
The whole story reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s idea of “Shakespeare’s sister” in A Room of One’s Own–that even if Shakespeare had had a sister just as talented, she could have done nothing to develop it in the 16th century (or the 18th, apparently), because “she would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people [and] tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts.” (The whole chapter is here.)
I certainly don’t have the feminist or musical insight any more to make a point other than, “What a shame,” but at least we’re remembering her birthday.