Where did Mozart’s musical talent come from?

Mozart's mother Anna Maria
Colorado pianist Katie Mahan in front of a portrait of Mozart’s mother, Anna Maria Pertl.

Where did Mozart get his musical talent? History has long pointed to his father, Leopold. Leopold was a violinist and authored an authoritative textbook on violin playing. However, pianist Katie Mahan argues that quite a bit of that prodigious talent likely came from Mozart’s mother, Anna Maria Pertl.

“Actually, there’s more music on his mother’s side than his father’s side,” says Mahan. “Leopold did not come from a musical family, whereas Mozart’s mother did. Her father was a successful hobby musician. Also, her mother’s father was a professional church musician. So, Mozart’s mother grew up with a lot of music not only in her home but in her blood.”

While Anna Mozart’s musical abilities aren’t documented, it’s thought that she did some composing. Mahan says that in a letter from Wolfgang to his mother he writes, “I can’t wait to come home because I’m looking forward to learning about the Pertl chamber symphonies.” With no other living family member with the last name Pertl, it’s believed his mother is the one who wrote these chamber symphonies.

In this episode of Mozart Snapshots, Colorado pianist Katie Mahan takes us to the scenic Austrian town of St. Gilgin, where Mozart’s mother was born into relative comfort, but then fell into poverty after the early death of her father.

Pianist Katie Mahan is from Golden, Colorado, but lives in Salzburg now for her concert career. She is following in Mozart's footsteps in his home city in this video blog series.

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