SOPHIE WEBER HAIBL: NANNERL—MOZART’S SISTER, MARIA ANNA
Salzburg, March 21, 1846
My dear friends, the warm hand of spring is gradually displacing winter’s icy grip.
The days grow longer, and the ice and sleet on our streets here in Salzburg have finally melted and disappeared.
I no longer have trepidations in venturing out of doors to take my cherished constitutionals along our cobblestone streets and byways.
This morning, I walked along one of our main streets, the bustling Getreidegasse, with its charming profusion of wrought-iron signs, and happened upon the house—number nine—where my late brother-in-law, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and his sister, Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, were born.
The stately, narrow yellow house has not changed.
The intangible memories also remain with me; the heavenly music emanating from its walls penetrate my mind.
The spirits of the Mozart family are here ever present.
How close the distance from this residence and the Mozarts’ later one across the Salzach River on the other side of town, on the Hannibalplatz, is to the apartment of my dear sister, Constanze, and myself, who resided together on the Marktplatz. Constanze was called to the Lord four years ago, aged eighty years, and I live alone now in the apartment.
As close as the distance between our dwellings and the stone's throw to Nannerl’s later residence may be--the great spiritual gulf that separated my family, the Webers and my dear Mozart from his own father and sister--festered and endured for many long years.
I dearly wish that the chasm could have been closed during Leopold Mozart’s lifetime, and that family harmony and accord would have happily reigned.
At least, Constanze and Nannerl lived long lives and finally managed to heal the breach.
Ach, they are all gone now.
Nannerl was called to the Lord in 1829, aged eight-and-seventy years.
Born in 1751, she was twelve years my senior.
I remember that my dear sister, Constanze, recounted to me her feelings after the visit she undertook with Wolfgang to Salzburg in 1783, in order to visit Wolfgang’s father and sister.
Constanze spoke to me with sadness of Nannerl’s reserve towards her, of an invisible wall separating the two, keeping Constanze, who longed to become close to her sister-in-law, at a distance.
Unfortunately, at that time, Nannerl, though polite, never reached out to Constanze.
My sister did so wish that had not been so.
Maria Anna Mozart was born in Salzburg to Leopold and Maria Anna Mozart and was five and one half years older than Wolfgang.
She was the fourth child, and she and Wolfgang, the youngest, were the
only two of the Mozarts’ seven children to survive infancy and reach adulthood.
Wolfgang and Nannerl looked very much alike, both of them inheriting their mother’s prominent nose.
Leopold was a court violinist and composer in the employ of the Archbishop of Salzburg, and had written a famous textbook on how to play the violin.
He taught Nannerl from a very early age how to play the pianoforte, and she became a gifted, accomplished artist.
Her little brother, Wolfgang, wished to imitate his big sister in her music studies, and that is when Leopold first noticed his prodigious, remarkable, amazing talent—and in such a young lad.
Leopold knew that with the right training and exposure, the child prodigies Wolfgang and Nannerl could fully develop and make the most of their budding talent, could become renown and improve the lot of the Mozart family.
The parents took the children all over Europe and also to England as children, where they performed for the highest courts in the land and reaped huge successes.
After age eighteen, however, Nannerl performed no longer in public, and thereafter enjoyed making music solely in private.
Leopold thereafter focused all his attentions on the career of Wolfgang, who was truly a genius.
Nannerl fell in love with Franz Armand d’Ippold, a captain and director of a school for the sons of noblemen in Salzburg, and he was equally in love with her.
The two wished to marry, but Leopold forbade the match.
Widowed by then, I believe Leopold felt that he would then lose his only daughter.
However, when Nannerl was aged three-and-thirty, another suitor vied for her hand in marriage, and this time, Leopold gave his consent.
Nannerl’s husband was Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg, a widow with five children.
They were married in Saint Gilgen in 1784.
Nannerl and her husband had three children of their own.
Her first born, Leopold, was born in her father’s house in Salzburg and left in her father’s care when she returned to Saint Gilgen.
Why did Nannerl prefer for her son to be raised by Leopold in Salzburg, while Nannerl resided in Saint Gilgen with her husband and five step-children?
I surmise that this unusual living arrangement was because the old man was lonely and also could provide the finest musical education for little Leopold.
When my dear sister, Constanze, married Mozart, Leopold was very much against the match. I believe that Leopold perceived that he would now be losing control of his son—yes, that he would lose his only son.
Nannerl was always very close to Leopold--That is a key, I feel, to her coldness toward my sister and to the other members of my family at that time.
Constanze so longed for Nannerl’s sisterly love and approval and at first, wrote her warm, affectionate letters, hoping truly for a close relationship with her beloved husband’s only sister.
But during these years, this alas was not to be.
Constanze realized that Nannerl showed little pleasure in my sister’s company and little affection for her, remaining usually aloof and unfriendly towards Constanze.
I know that Nannerl’s actions deeply hurt my sister.
But now, you see, with the increasing estrangement between Leopold and Wolfgang after the latter’s marriage with my sister, Leopold now grew even closer to Nannerl, to Nannerl’s great satisfaction.
Nannerl had always longed for more attention from her beloved father, whom she dearly loved, honored, and respected, though for much of their lives, most of Leopold’s attention had been focused on Wolfgang.
Now Nannerl and her family were the center of Leopold’s life and affections.
And Nannerl now always took Leopold’s side in his relations with Wolfgang. She did not, would not abandon her father.
Dear friends, there was a period when I thought that the two sides of the family would finally be reconciled, in 1785, when Leopold came to Vienna and stayed with my sister and Wolfgang for over two months.
Mama and I lived but a short distance away, and Leopold was a frequent visitor to our home and I in particular and also Mama became quite close to him at that time.
This period in Vienna was a busy, successful time for Wolfgang, always busy and in demand, giving lessons, composing, concertizing.
I think that after awhile, Leopold longed for the quiet of Salzburg and returned there.
Well, my friends, things went from bad to worse between my brother-in-law and Leopold. Wolfgang was very hurt when his father refused to let his two little boys stay with him while Wolfgang and Constanze would undertake a concert journey to Germany and then to England.
After all, Nannerl’s son, little Leopold, was staying with Leopold, and his house was quite large—Why not also his own son’s dear children?
As it turned out, Wolfgang thereby abandoned his plans of the journey on account of this very thing.
Then alas, Leopold was called to the Lord in 1787.
Because of the estrangement with Wolfgang, Leopold did not divide his estate equally but left most of his worldly goods to Nannerl, bequeathing to Wolfgang only some household possessions.
The closeness between Wolfgang and Nannerl had gradually ceased, and this was the final blow.
Wolfgang had grown increasingly closer to my family, the Webers, and in the end considered us to be his true family, also becoming close friends with my sisters’, Josefa’s and Aloysia’s, husbands.
I am sure that Wolfgang and Nannerl, however, continued all their lives to love and respect one another and to hope for a rapprochement.
My sister, Constanze, told me that many years later, Nannerl told Constanze that had Nannerl known of Wolfgang’s by then somewhat straitened circumstances, she would have been more generous in settling their late father’s estate.
And thereupon Wolfgang, so young at nearly six-and-thirty years of age, passed from this earth.
After Leopold’s passing in 1787, the fragile bonds between Nannerl and Constanze began to grow stronger and eventually to flourish.
Nannerl’s husband passed on in 1801, and Nannerl then returned with her two surviving children to live in Salzburg, in the house of her friends, the Barisanis, and gave piano lessons.
Well, my friends, Constanze’s second spouse, Nissen, retired in 1820, and he and my sister then left Copenhagen forever.
For several years, they traveled here and yon, seeking out spas in an attempt to improve Nissen’s health, and they enjoyed a lengthy stay with my nephew, Karl Thomas, in Milan.
Before embarking on the journey to Italy, my sister and her husband paid a visit to Salzburg where they stayed with Nannerl.
Now, my friends, the long alienation between Nannerl and Constanze was thankfully coming to an end; the invisible distance between Nannerl and my sister--between Nannerl and the Weber family—was fortunately about to be broken.
Nannerl was by then an elderly woman, living alone and lonely and going blind. Several years later, Nannerl did lose her sight.
Nannerl had suffered the loss of her beloved sixteen-year-old daughter and two of her step-children.
Nissen was now a retiree and missed the mental stimulation his job had afforded him, but in Salzburg, staying with Nannerl, he, Constanze, and Nannerl began to reminisce fondly about their earlier years, and most particularly, about the very special times of yesteryear when Nannerl and Wolfgang were Wunderkinder, feted by all the European nobility.
Nannerl also lovingly relived with the Nissens her day-to-day life in those bygone days, when they were children, the growing-up years.
Nannerl, Nissen, and Constanze spent much time in thoughtful and animated discourse.
It was at this time that Nissen’s desire to write a comprehensive biography of Mozart took root.
Other biographies of Mozart had already been penned, but they were unsubstantial and riddled with inaccuracies.
Nannerl showed Nissen and my sister a great collection of family letters she had collected and amassed from that time—letters from Wolfgang and from Leopold.
Why, my friends; there were such a bundle of them!
You see, Leopold had been collecting and guarding these precious letters because he himself had planned someday to write a biography of Wolfgang. However, Leopold later lost interest in this undertaking.
Nannerl also got on well with Nissen.
In 1824, the Nissens returned to Salzburg and settled there permanently, in an apartment on the Marktplatz.
Now Nannerl and Constanze lived within short walking distance of one another.
This apartment on the Marktplatz, dear friends, was also to be my future home.
Nannerl then generously gave Nissen and Constanze a good part of her family letters--around four hundred of them--so that Nissen could write the biography of Mozart.
Nannerl was granted the profits from a publication of Mozart’s “Requiem”, and she generously divided this money between Constanze’s and Mozart’s two sons.
This kind gesture finally closed the gulf between the sisters-in-law.
Nannerl became completely blind in 1825, and by the time I was widowed in 1826--on the very same day as Constanze--and moved to Salzburg to live with my sister, Constanze--Nannerl was housebound and bedridden, being then paralyzed and blind.
Constanze cared for Nannerl; she was her frequent visitor.
Nannerl’s kindly next-door neighbor, Herr Josef Metzger, a city public servant, also helped care for Nannerl and make her days more comfortable.
I knew that Nannerl must at times lack for company, being mostly confined to her bed, and I also used to visit her.
In Nannerl’s will, she left some of her personal items to Constanze’s sons.
Constanze later left some money to Nannerl’s adopted daughter.
Nannerl passed away in 1829, aged eight-and-seventy years.
Constanze informed the world of Nannerl’s passing.
Dear friends, I find myself so often gazing up at that familiar yellow building, Getreidegasse Nine, the birthplace of Nannerl and Wolfgang, and promenading past the stately home over the bridge on the Hannibalplatz, where the Mozart family lived in later years.
I think back to the time when the Mozarts were a happy, united family, and I am certain that in eternity, for all time, that is how the Mozarts will ever remain—in happy harmony and accord.
"SOPHIE WEBER HAIBL: NANNERL—MOZART’S SISTER, MARIA ANNA" is the exclusive property of Marti Burger, and is not to be reprinted without her written permission.
"SOPHIE WEBER HAIBL: NANNERL—MOZART’S SISTER, MARIA ANNA"
© Marti Burger 2003-2008