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.
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.