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Throughout his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was enchanted, amused, aroused, and betrayed by women—his mother, sister, wife, sisters-in-law, female patrons, friends, lovers, and fellow artists—and he was equally complex to them. But ultimately the great composer loved and respected the women he knew intimately and those whom he admired from afar. In this fascinating, evocative, and compellingly readable biography, Jane Glover, acclaimed conductor and acknowledged expert on Mozart's life and work, brings these ...
Throughout his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was enchanted, amused, aroused, and betrayed by women—his mother, sister, wife, sisters-in-law, female patrons, friends, lovers, and fellow artists—and he was equally complex to them. But ultimately the great composer loved and respected the women he knew intimately and those whom he admired from afar. In this fascinating, evocative, and compellingly readable biography, Jane Glover, acclaimed conductor and acknowledged expert on Mozart's life and work, brings these remarkable ladies vividly to life—the real women who shared the composer's tumultuous world and inspired some of his greatest musical achievements, as well as those he dramatized in his magnificent operas.
Mozart never knew either of his grandmothers. His mother's mother, Eva Rosina Pertl, died in the care of her pregnant daughter a few months before he was born. His father's mother, Anna Maria Mozart, could have heard her seven-year-old grandson perform in Augsburg in 1763 but had long since fallen out irreparably with her own son Leopold, and kept her obstinate distance. But both these women, the one a victim and the other a culprit of historical absenteeism, had a strong influence on the lives and natures of their own children, Mozart's parents; and thus they left their mark on the early awareness of their grandchildren.
There was music on both sides of Mozart's family, but more perhaps in the maternal genes. His grandmother Eva Rosina's father and her first husband were both Salzburg church musicians. Her second husband, Nikolaus Pertl, was also musical, with a career path initially not dissimilar to that of his future son-in-law. Pertl attended the Benedictine University in Salzburg, sang bass in the choir of St Peter's Abbey and taught at the monastery school. But his main study was law, which after graduation brought him jobs in Salzburg, Vienna and Graz. He was forty-five when he married Mozart's grandmother in 1712. He then held the fairly senior post of District Superintendent (or Pflege) in St Andrae, but in 1715 suffered a near-fatal illness, which left him greatly debilitated. The Pertls moved to the quieter waters of the Abersee, and the small village of St Gilgen, where Nikolaus he held a similar but lesser-paid position. As his health continued to decline, he increasingly found himself having to borrow money, especially after the birth of his two daughters, Maria Rosina Gertrud in 1719, and Maria Anna in 1720. When he died in March 1724, his debts amounted to more than four times his annual salary. His effects were confiscated, and Eva Rosina, with her two little girls, returned to Salzburg to live on a meagre charity pension. Four years later, in 1728, her elder daughter died. Eva Rosina and Maria Anna, survivors of this all-too-common cycle of family tragedy, were thrown ever closer together.
The future mother of Mozart thus had a somewhat difficult start in life. Torn from the peaceful lakeside beauty of St Gilgen at the age of four, bereft of her father and soon also to lose her sister, she was bewilderingly transplanted into the city-state of Salzburg -- prosperous, independent of its neighbours Bavaria and Austria, and gleamingly modern. Ruled since the thirteenth century by a series of Prince-Archbishops, Salzburg reaped great revenue from its far-flung territories with their salt mines, livestock farming and forestry. Over the centuries it had also grown as a cultural and intellectual centre. The Benedictine University was founded in 1623, and, also in the seventeenth century, under a series of rulers whose imaginations were fired by the Italian Baroque, the city's architecture was transformed. The first major works of Fischer von Erlach, who later brought similar innovation to Imperial Vienna, were four of Salzburg's finest churches. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the city had nearly 16,000 inhabitants. Its ecclesiastical royal Court was the centre of important social and cultural events. Its merchants had distant trading connections, which gave them immense wealth individually. There was a wide range of public institutions and social services: schools, museums, libraries, hospitals and almshouses. Salzburg looked after its poor as well as its wealthy. In the 1720s it was just this supportive security that the widow Eva Rosina and her small child needed.
Little is known of Maria Anna's upbringing, except that she was not especially healthy. She probably had no formal education. Perhaps she and her mother supplemented their charity pension by making lace -- an industry which thrived along the shores of the Abersee. In the one adult portrait of Maria Anna, she is depicted holding a piece of lace in a rather proprietorial manner, which suggests that she had made it herself. But she was clearly a bright, observant and intelligent child. Through caring for her mother, which she continued to do until Eva Rosina's death in 1755, she developed a strong sense of resourcefulness, compassion and duty. These qualities were to sustain her through her eventual marriage to a charismatic but difficult man.
Sometime in her early twenties, Maria Anna met a young Court violinist. Leopold Mozart had been born and raised in Augsburg. His father, Johann Georg Mozart, was a well-to-do bookbinder; his mother, Anna Maria Sulzer (Johann Georg's second wife, married within a few weeks of the death of his first), the daughter of a weaver. Leopold was the eldest of nine children. He had received an excellent education in Augsburg's Jesuit schools, and after the death of his father in 1736, when Leopold was seventeen, it was the Jesuits who had effectively taken care of him. His mother had seemed almost to relinquish responsibility for her eldest son, concentrating instead on her younger children, and this was probably the origin of an ever-widening rift between them. As the years progressed, mutual mistrust festered and grew. Anna Maria may have disapproved of Leopold's erratic choices of career. First he forsook the family firm (her younger sons would continue the bookbinding business); next he abandoned the Jesuit path, for he left Augsburg in 1737 and entered the Benedictine University in Salzburg, where he studied law; and then, after only a year there, he was dismissed, with the chilling indictment of having been 'unworthy of the name of student',1 and began to pursue his abiding passion, music (he was a talented violinist, organist and composer). This was too much for his mother. Finally dismissing him as some sort of family black sheep, she effectively cut him off, never allowing him to receive his family inheritance. Both Leopold and his mother were cunning, blinkered, stubborn, and ultimately unforgiving -- maybe this was what lay at the heart of their antagonism: they were simply too alike.
Excerpted from Mozart's Women by Jane Glover Copyright © 2006 by Jane Glover. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted March 27, 2006
This is a valuable and engrossing new look at Mozart where the women in his life are mercifully not presented as pale additions or indeed obstacles to his creativity. In MOZART's WOMEN, his family, his loves, his wife, and the singers and musicians with whom he worked come vividly to life as he saw them and they saw him they influenced him, cheered him on when no one would hire him, sat up all night with him when he finished an overture in a rush, lent him fortepianos, sewed buttons on his coats, sang his music and fell apart when he died. What must it have been like for one of the greatest singers of the 18th century to find across the room at the piano as her composer a small boy of fourteen? How tender are his older sister's memories of him as a child! Particularly fascinating for me is Jane Glover's depiction of the four Weber sisters, one of whom he married, one who broke his heart, one for whom he wrote The Queen of the Night, and the last one his dear friend to whom he always sent a thousand kisses and in whose arms he died. I know these women well as I am the author of the Viking Penguin novel MARRYING MOZART (2005) which concerns the relationship of all four Weber sisters (Aloysia, Josefa, Constanze, and Sophie) with Mozart when he was in his early twenties and tells of his complicated path to marrying the right one! I devoured Ms. Glover's book. It was all I could have hoped.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.