The Letters of Mozart’s Sister Maria Anna Get Transformed into Music

The tal­ent of an indi­vid­ual may not always run in the fam­i­ly, but we can nev­er dis­count the pos­si­bil­i­ty of its doing so. This is true even in the case of Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart, not just one of the best-known com­posers ever to live, but a byword for deep, innate, and unre­peat­able genius. Mozart was com­pos­ing orig­i­nal music at the age of of four or five, an aston­ish­ing fact we know today in part because his old­er sis­ter wit­nessed and lat­er attest­ed to it. Known as Nan­nerl, Maria Anna Mozart pre­ced­ed her both­er into key­board lessons from their father Leopold, a com­pos­er and teacher. Togeth­er Wolf­gang and Maria Anna toured Europe as a per­form­ing duo of child prodi­gies, until Maria Anna’s attain­ment of mar­riage­able age took her off the cir­cuit.

If Maria Anna ever com­posed music of her own, none of it has sur­vived. But she did leave behind a fair few diaries and let­ters, many of the lat­ter exchanged with her broth­er. These writ­ings pro­vid­ed the mate­r­i­al for pianist Heloísa Fer­nan­des to cre­ate a piece in trib­ute to the less­er-known Mozart sib­ling.

“The writ­ing, all in Ger­man, under­went painstak­ing analy­sis so that its tone and pro­nun­ci­a­tion could be trans­lat­ed into musi­cal notes,” says Lit­tle Black Book. “A Ger­man inter­preter was invit­ed to read the let­ters and diary of Maria Anna Mozart out loud,” and a piece of soft­ware “trans­lat­ed the record­ing into musi­cal notes by tun­ing the syl­la­bles. If a spo­ken syl­la­ble hit 387 Hz, for exam­ple, the pro­gram inter­pret­ed it as G.” Thus were Nan­ner­l’s words trans­formed into music.

The result­ing piece, “Das Kön­i­gre­ich Rück­en,” is named after “an imag­i­nary king­dom that Maria and Wolf­gang made ref­er­ence to in their let­ters to each oth­er,” as Sara Spary notes in Adweek — a pub­li­ca­tion that would nat­u­ral­ly cov­er it, com­mis­sioned as it was by an ad cam­paign for LG Elec­tron­ics. Devel­oped by Brazil­ian firm AlmapBB­DO in coop­er­a­tion with the pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Super­sôni­ca, “Pro­jec­to Ms. Mozart” is meant to pro­mote LG’s XBOOM Go Blue­tooth speak­er. But whichev­er device you use to hear “Das Kön­i­gre­ich Rück­en,” you’ll sure­ly find that it sounds quite unlike any piece you’ve heard before. Fans of Maria Anna Mozart as a his­tor­i­cal fig­ure will lis­ten and won­der what could have been, and even those igno­rant of her can’t but wel­come these three addi­tion­al min­utes of Mozart into the world.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Maria Anna Mozart Was a Musi­cal Prodi­gy Like Her Broth­er Wolf­gang, So Why Did She Get Erased from His­to­ry?

Mozart’s Diary Where He Com­posed His Final Mas­ter­pieces Is Now Dig­i­tized and Avail­able Online

Hear the Pieces Mozart Com­posed When He Was Only Five Years Old

See Mozart Played on Mozart’s Own Fortepi­ano, the Instru­ment That Most Authen­ti­cal­ly Cap­tures the Sound of His Music

12-Year-Old Piano Prodi­gy Takes Four Notes Ran­dom­ly Picked from a Hat and Instant­ly Uses Them to Impro­vise a Sonata

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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