Franz Liszt Biography

(Composer, Pianist and Teacher of the Romantic Era)

Birthday: October 22, 1811 (Libra)

Born In: Raiding, Austria

Franz Liszt was a famous Hungarian composer and pianist. His virtuosic pianist skills were far more technically advanced than his contemporaries were. Apart from his talents as a piano artist, he was also a proficient composer, piano teacher, and conductor. His outstanding talents gave him the opportunity to become one of the most eminent members of the New German School or the Neudeutsche Schule. His father too was a musician who played several instruments and perhaps that’s why many believe that music was embedded in his genes. Unlike many talented celebrities who bloomed late, Franz Joseph Liszt proved his mettle at a very young age and gained popularity across several parts of Europe. A string of setbacks following his father’s death, in a way, distracted the Hungarian composer and the man almost died due to ill health. But the determined musician bounced back and continued pursuing music eventually. A concert of Niccolò Paganini inspired Franz Joseph Liszt greatly and he decided to leave no stone unturned to become a great musician. His works have said to have inspired several generations of music composers and he also enjoys a demigod status among many students of music even today.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 74


father: Adam Liszt

mother: Anna Liszt

children: Cosima, Daniel

Pianists Educators

Height: 1.85 m

Died on: July 31, 1886

place of death: Bayreuth, Germany

Ancestry: Austrian Hungarian

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

discoveries/inventions: Symphonic Poem

Childhood & Early Life
Franz Liszt was born on October 22, 1811 to Adam and Anna Liszt at a village named Doborjan, situated in Hungary. His father Adam was a musician who played several instruments such as the guitar, cello, violin and piano. Adam’s talent was even known to some of the world’s greatest musicians like Beethoven, Haydn and Hummel.
Franz learnt his first lessons in piano from his talented father. Unlike most kids, the young lad started composing music at the tender age of eight and even began performing at concerts when he was 9.
Franz Liszt later on went on to learn lessons in music from renowned composers Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri.
He moved to Paris in 1823 and even tried performing at the Paris Conservatoire the same year, but was denied permission for not being a French national. During this time, he also happened to meet young musicians Ferdinano Paer and Michael. The interaction with both these gentlemen gave Franz a much needed exposure to the world of music.
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Franz Liszt’s talent made the right noises in England soon after, when he performed at the famous Windsor Castle for King George IV. During the same period, his epic composition ‘New Grand Overture’ was performed at Manchester.
After his father’s death in 1826, Franz Joseph Liszt worked as a piano teacher and took a sort of sabbatical from music for a while. For quite some time, Liszt spent time reading about the life and achievements of several great men, like acclaimed writer Victor Hugo and Alphonse de Lamartine for instance.
He also happened to meet the French composer Hector Berlioz at this time and was influenced by Berlioz to a large great extent.
Franz Liszt attended a concert in 1832, which was more of a fundraiser for charity. The highlight of this concert was that the legendary musician Niccolo Paganini was to perform.
Franz was blown away by Paganini’s skills to such an extent that he decided he’s going to master the piano the way Paganini established his prowess in playing the violin.
In 1833, he focussed on making transcriptions of one of his favourite musicians, Hector Berlioz, who was suffering from an acute financial crisis at the time. Franz also played several compositions of Berlioz to popularize his compositions among the masses.
Franz Joseph Liszt also happened to become good friends with a composer named Frederic Chopin later on, who also influenced him to a certain extent. Interactions with Chopin helped in bringing out the romanticist hidden inside Franz through compositions.
During the months of January and February, in 1866, he directed two symphonies, namely ‘Stabat Mater’ and ‘Dante Symphony’.
Franz Liszt also made news for his stellar composition for the coronation ceremony of the Hungarian monarch Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria. The performance was held on June 8, 1867 and the work earned Liszt many accolades.
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He performed for the last time at Yelisavetgrad, Ukraine, in 1847. After which he retired from music at the age of 35.
Major Works
The decade 1839-49 is believed to be the best time of Franz Liszt’s illustrious career as a musician. Apparently, he performed in public approximately a thousand times during this decade. His masterpiece, ‘Three Concert Études’ was also written in the same period.
Awards & Achievements
Franz Liszt was felicitated with an honorary doctorate by the renowned ‘University of Königsberg’ on March 14, 1842, for his incredible contribution towards music.
Liszt was also announced the Canon of Albano on August 14, 1879, as a mark of respect to his creative genius.
Personal Life & Legacy
During his younger days, in 1827 to be precise, when Franz Liszt was making waves for his abilities as a musician, he went on a trip to Boulogne with his father for a treatment. Unfortunately during this trip, his father Adam passed away, which deeply depressed the talented youngster.
He returned to Paris, where his mother was residing after the unexpected demise of his father. Several days of hardship followed and Liszt coached aspirants to play the piano, to make ends meet.
In 1828, the composer was smitten by one of his students and fell madly in love with her. The girl’s father didn’t approve of the relationship, leading to the musician’s depression and ill health. So pathetic was his state that a newspaper even mentioned him in the ‘obituary’ section and most people who knew him thought it was the end of the talented musician.
However, destiny probably had other plans in store for Franz Liszt. Fortunately, he decided to spend more time in educating himself and dedicating himself towards music.
Franz Liszt got involved in a relationship with Marie d’Agoult, a renowned author in 1833. Marie was already married at the time she and Franz were courting. By 1835, Marie got separated from her husband and began a new journey altogether with the musician.
The couple became parents to a girl named Blandine in December 1835. They later became parents to two more kids, a girl named Cosima and a son, Daniel. However, after 1839, the relationship between the two started turning sour.
Franz, along with Marie and the kids travelled extensively across Europe for several years.
In 1849, he travelled to Kiev, Ukraine, for a performance, where he met Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a royal of Polish origin. Carolyne eventually became a really important person in the musician’s life.
She motivated Franz to concentrate more on his composition rather than travel a lot. The princess and the composer were also romantically involved, but sadly the relationship ran into several complications, mainly because Carolyne was already married.
Franz Liszt succumbed to pneumonia on July 31, 1886. Some sources claim the involvement of foul play in the musician’s death.
While conducting master classes, Franz Liszt often refused to listen to the compositions of several musicians, such as those of Carl Tausig.
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