Where would we be without the mothers of our beloved classical composers? These moms were on double duty tending to the family home and their children’s early musical talents. Here’s a look back at Anna Maria Mozart, Josephine Strauss and Anna Dvořák, as the mothers who raised some of the most widely celebrated classical music prodigies today.
Anna Maria Mozart accompanied Wolfgang and his sister, Maria Ann, on a three year tour to Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, Zurich and Donaueschingen. While travel conditions and lodgings were less than ideal for the family, both children performed in royal courts and became recognized by European nobility. During this time, Wolfgang was exposed to works from other composers, perhaps most notably Johann Sebastian Bach whose influence can be noted throughout Mozart’s many works. Anna Maria again escorted 21 year old Wolfgang across Europe in search of employment for her son; however, she died from an unknown illness in Paris, which ended the tour.
Josephine Strauss was the daughter of Pschorr Brewery’s founding owner Joseph Pschorr. She was 16 years younger than her husband Franz Strauss and recognized her son Richard’s keenness for music at an early age. Richard mentions in his later memoirs, “My mother says of my earlier youth that I reacted to the sound of the horn with smiles and to that of the violin with tears.” Richard composed Muttertändelei which is translated as “mother chatter.” Based on Gottfried August Bürger’s poem, three songs speak of a new mother doting on her perfect child. Richard’s wife Pauline loved the piece so much that she refused to lend it to other performers.
Although little evidence of Anna Dvořák’s life can be found in history books, Antonin gave her an eternal presence in Songs My Mother Taught Me as the fourth piece of his cycle Gypsy Songs. Dvořák was strongly influenced by his parent’s Bohemian heritage and Roman Catholic faith. An instant success at its debut, Songs My Mother Taught Me sets Adolf Heyduk ‘s poem to music using both Czech and German lyrics. The English translation goes like this:
Songs my mother taught me, In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children, each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing, oft they flow from my memory’s treasure.
Listen to Dvořák’s melancholy, yet beautiful piece: