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~ Eureka! Silver Honor Book ~
~ Oregon Spirit Honor Book ~
 ~ Crystal Kite Finalist ~



The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart

Maria pressed the smooth keys, and notes fluttered out like a fountain, like raindrops on a puddle, like a warm wind. When Maria practiced, her squirmy little brother would climb onto the piano bench and snuggle into the folds of her skirt.

As Maria’s fingers raced across the keyboard, Wolfgang became still. When she finally laid her hands in her lap, the notes rang on in their ears. The one day, Wolfgang reached his pudgy hands toward the keys…


By the time she was 12, she was considered one of the finest pianists in Europe, but today few people know her name. Maria Anna Mozart, like her famous brother Wolfgang, was a musical prodigy. The talented siblings toured Europe, playing before kings and empresses, were showered with gifts and favors, and lived in a whirlwind life of music and travel. They were best friends, collaborators, and confidantes. As they grew older, Wolfgang was encouraged to pursue his musical ambitions, while Maria was told she must stop performing and, ultimately, marry. But she was determined to continue playing the piano every day, for the love of music.  

Illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Publisher: Tricycle Press

Year Published: February 8, 2011

ISBN-10: 1582463263
ISBN-13: 978-1582463261


“Rusch's rich prose and Johnson and Fancher's lavishly detailed collages … seamlessly blend to form a moving portrait of an unsung musician.”

In an intimate tribute to musical prodigy Maria Anna Mozart (sister of Wolfgang Amadeus), Rusch organizes biographical passages into sonata movements, with musical terms used to mark events in Maria's life. When they were children, Wolfgang and Maria played recitals together all over Europe. But eventually Maria is left behind, later raising a family, but still devoted to the piano. An air of sadness permeates: in a section titled "Fermata (In which everything stops)," Maria's piano warps in the frigid weather, and in "Cadenza," Maria weeps for Wolfgang, who dies "so young." Rusch's rich prose and Johnson and Fancher's lavishly detailed collages--melding paint, paper, fabrics, and weathered musical notation--seamlessly blend to form a moving portrait of an unsung musician. Ages 4–8.

Starred Review
"This is an extraordinarily constructed work: Rusch … illuminates in simple but vivid terms how important music was to Maria … Johnson and Fancher echo the elegant construction of the text … so every image is full of texture and heft."

The older sister of the composer Mozart was a child prodigy herself and toured with her little brother to great acclaim across 18th-century Europe. She wrote down his first symphony when they were in England. But soon it was just the young Wolfgang who played before adoring crowds. Mozart died at 35, and Maria married and raised five stepchildren and several of her own, but she continued to play and teach. This is an extraordinarily constructed work: Rusch uses the form of a sonata to tell her story, dividing it into movements and indicating tempi and other musical notations. She illuminates in simple but vivid terms how important music was to Maria and how she kept learning and exploring her art based on such sources as Mozart’s own letters, as she left no music or writing behind. Johnson and Fancher echo the elegant construction of the text by making their pictures in fabric and paper as well as oil and acrylic, so every image is full of texture and heft. (notes on language and music, biographical note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)


There was another Mozart prodigy: "At twelve, Maria was considered one of the best pianists in Europe." Not only did she tour with her soon-to-be-renowned little brother, she was his inspiration, his playfellow, even his amanuensis-she transcribed his precocious first symphony. Echoing classic sonata form, as outlined in an introductory note, Rusch's text makes the pair's triumphant childhood tour her opening "allegro." In a slow "Second Movement," Maria stays home when Wolfgang tours again; his return constitutes the joyful third, while memories and Maria's more conventional subsequent life make a summary fourth, embellished with such musical descriptives as sforzando to denote her "brilliant" playing and fermata when it's thwarted by a faulty piano. Last, the aging, widowed Maria plays duets with her nephew as she had with his father. All this is appropriately bittersweet. A two-page "encore," however, is most interesting, adding more from the slim record of this musical prodigy whose compositions, now lost, were much admired by her brother and whose career was cut short because she was a woman. The illustrators evoke eighteenth-century Salzburg in collages of brocades overlaid with painted detail and musical notation. The bewigged young pair are intent and spirited, though perhaps the formal, candlelit settings and aged-varnish palette better befit Maria's long, sober adulthood. There's an impressive source list. — Joanna Rudge Long




What would you do for the love of music? Would you perform with your kid brother, amazing European kings and queens? And what of being left behind when little Wolfgang embarked on a solo tour?   Elizabeth Rusch of Portland devotedly portrays the strength, passion and talent of another Mozart in For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart.  Composed in the form of a piano sonata and introducing many musical terms, Maria's tale unfolds over several movements.   In the first movement, Maria expresses a love of music. Her father teaches her to play the piano. When Wolfgang is old enough to stand near the bench, he, too, is smitten by the music. "Whenever Maria practiced, her squirmy little brother would snuggle into the folds of her skirt," Rusch writes. "As Maria's fingers raced across the keyboard, Wolfgang would become still. When she finally laid her hands in her lap, the notes rang on in their ears. Then one day, Wolfgang reached his pudgy fingers toward the keys."   By the fourth movement, Wolfgang is home from a tour, and the siblings' hands become entwined over Wolfgang's difficult piano duets. When he leaves, Maria is heartbroken but soon is consumed with performance, composition and teaching. At the cadenza, she plays despite her beloved brother's death. In the finale, music leads her forward despite the loss of her husband, her sight and the use of her left hand.  Rusch writes of Maria's fervor and heartache without being sentimental. Facts are laid out simply. Interpretation is left to the reader. The illustrations are crafted by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. They combine rich brocades, paint and music manuscript, creating a lavish 18th-century accompaniment. The Mozarts literally are portrayed in, of and through music. This beautiful book is marketed for children ages 5-8; however, it is a masterpiece, resonating with all lovers of music, regardless of age.  Helen Babbitt


One of the most celebrated pianists of her time, Mozart’s elder sister, Maria Anna, is largely unsung in our day. Rusch follows the structure of a piano sonata in this picture-book biography, from the First Movement, when the sibling child geniuses are discovered, through their sforzando and fermata periods, to the Finale, which finds Maria left behind by Wolfgang’s fame and early death. The strict musical form feels forced and interferes with the natural flow of the text; a more fluid, complete, and interesting telling of Maria Anna’s story appears in an appended, two-page author’s note. More deserving of applause are the accomplished illustrations, which interpret the 200-year-old atmosphere with vivid detail and set the central characters against a collage background of rich fabrics and musical notation. With few youth titles available about Maria Anna, this attractive offering fills a gap in youth collections. Grades 1-3.
Andrew Medlar

Grade 2–4—Maria Anna Walpurga Ignatia Mozart was a musical prodigy in her own right and shared considerable childhood fame with her younger brother, Wolfgang. This picture-book biography quickly sketches the siblings' close relationship and their long European concert tour and then goes on to tell in greater detail about her quiet growing-up and adult years as her brother quickly rose to prominence. Rusch organizes the account into short segments labeled with musical terms designating the units of a sonata—"The First Movement," "Allegro," "Development," "Cadenza," "Finale." The concluding author's note, "Encore," is a two-page biography threaded with explanations of the 18th-century limitations on women's participation in the music world. Johnson and Fancher add warmth and texture to the story, blending collage and painting on canvas. Costumes and backgrounds incorporate brocade fragments, and bits of music scores frame carriages, musical instruments, and building features. Text is on inset pages that appear to be crumbling and fading, as though taken from a very old book. Catherine Brighton's picture book Mozart, Scenes from the Childhood of the Great Composer (Doubleday, 1990) is narrated by Nannerl, as she was called by her family, and gives a richer account of the famous childhood tour. Maria's long, relatively uneventful life, emphasized here, is hardly the remarkable story promised in the subtitle, but this attractive book offers a peek at women's history and will serve where more is needed on the Mozarts.
Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston

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