Classical Music’s Greatest Siblings

In honor of National Siblings Day, we look at some of the biggest sibling rivalries and love in classical music.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS AND MARIA ANNA MOZART

Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (1751-1829) was the talk of Europe a few years before her young brother, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791), took the stage. Though we don’t believe there was an apparent rivalry between the two, their father Leopold doted – and invested – in his son’s musical abilities. Nannerl eventually faded into the background, marrying a man with five kids and having three of her own.

FRANZ JOSEPH AND MICHAEL HAYDN

Franz Joseph (1732-1809) was shipped off to a music school at age six, with his brother Michael (1737-1806) following him to the same school. While the older brother became widely known in Austria and traveled throughout Europe, Michael found employment in Salzburg. He was appointed the violin teacher at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg, following the death of Leopold Mozart, and was later commissioned to write a requiem by none other than Empress Maria Theresa. But his fortunes were short-lived: France invaded Salzburg in 1800. Later regretting Joseph’s offer to join him at the court of Prince Esterházy, Michael lived his remaining years as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

FANNY AND FELIX MENDELSSOHN

Tutored by the same instructors, Felix (1809-1847) became the more widely recognized musician of the family. Felix is most famous for bringing Bach’s composition back into classical music’s foray, as well as creating a library of music beginning at the age of 12. His sister Fanny (1805-1847), meanwhile, tried to break into the musical world, writing around 500 compositions. Unfortunately, she died at the age of 41 from a stroke, shortly after a musical rehearsal; her brother followed her to the grave several months later.

GIL AND ORLI SHAHAM

Sibling rivalry wasn’t just for composers of yesteryear. Gil (born 1971) and Orli (born 1975) Shaham are a brother-sister duo who created name for themselves through extensive world tours. Orli, a pianist, eventually decided in the late-1990s to step out of her older brother’s shadow, who was an internationally-renowned violinist. But she did not fade away: Orli helped create the Baby Got Bach program, interactive concerts for kids three through six.

Know of any other famous musical siblings? Comment below.

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