22 October 1811 - 31 July 1886 (age 74)

Franz Liszt - Hungarian composer, conductor, concert pianist, teacher and writer. He is considered the greatest virtuoso pianist ever and had a huge influence on composers and pianists ever since.

He had an eventful romantic life with stormy relationships but in later life turned to a religious life and was known as Abbé Liszt.




A brief biography


Portrait of Liszt


Born: Franz (Ferenc) Liszt, 22 October 1811, in Doborjan, Hungary (now Raiding, Austria)
Zodiac sign : Libra
Father: Adam Liszt, a talented amateur musician
Mother: Marie Anna Lager, Austrian
Siblings: none
Partners: Countess Marie d'Agoult
Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein
Children: Blandine, Cosima , Daniel (all by Marie)
Son-in-law: Richard Wagner, who married Cosima.
Died: 31 July 1886 (age 74) Bayreuth, Germany
Cause of death: pneumonia
Grave: Alter Friedhof, Bayreuth, Germany Findagrave


Period: German Romantic
Output - immense:

  • piano solos
  • organ
  • chamber music
  • sacred choral music
  • songs
  • symphonic poems
  • orchestral works
  • arrangements and transcriptions of other composers' work
    Best known works:
    - 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies
    - Piano Concertos
    - Mephisto Waltzes
    - Faust Symphony
    - Lieberstraumes

  • Piano Concerto No.1, Part 1
    - Lang Lang


    Horowitz plays Liszt Consolation No. 3

    A brief biography

    Franz Liszt was a child prodigy. His father, a talented amateur musician, recognised his gifts and was his first teacher. He did have another teacher, Czerny, but he was largely self taught as a pianist.

    As a teenager and in his twenties he lived in Paris where he was friends with Chopin, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Wagner and many others in the artistic community.

    When he was 20 he saw the virtuoso violinist Paganini and was inspired to become the Paganini of the keyboard.

    He was good looking, attractive to women and had a turbulent romantic life. His first great love was the aristocratic writer Countess Marie d'Agoult who left her husband and had three children with him, one of whom left her husband to marry Wagner. She left him when he was 33.

    His second love was another writer - the Russian Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, also married. When he was 50 they went to Rome to try to get a divorce for her - withour success. They then separated.

    Always a devout Catholic, Liszt joined the Oratory of the Madonna del Rosario and studied religion. He took minor orders (a preliminary stage to the priesthood), became known as L'Abbé Liszt, dressed as a priest and composed Masses, oratorios and religious music.

    During his last years he spent winter and spring in Budapest, summer in Weimar and autumn in Rome.

    In 1886, at the age of 74, he travelled to London to collect an honour and met Queen Victoria. On the way back he met Debussy in Paris. His last performance was in Luxembourg on July 19. He attended the Wagner festival in Bayreuth where he fell ill and died on July 31 of pneumonia.


    In 1836 Sir Charles Hallé described Liszt as follows (quoted in Harold Schonberg, 1963): "He is tall and very thin, his face very small and pale, his forehead remarkably high and beautiful; he wears his perfectly lank hair so long that it spreads over his shoulders, which looks very odd, for when he gets a bit excited and gesticulates, it falls right over his face and one sees nothing of his nose. He is very negligent in his attire, his coat looks as if it had just been thrown on, he wears no cravat, only a narrow white collar. This curious figure is in perpetual motion: now he stamps with his feet, now waves his arms in the air, now he does this, now that."
    (thanks to Biography.com)

    Liszt in Art
    A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.

    Hungarian Rhapsody (+ pictures + bio)
    This 10 minute video has lots of photos and a short biography to read while you listen to this great piece of music.

    or watch the Tom & Jerry version!


    Mephisto from 'Faust Symphony' (Part 1)
    Bernstein conducts 


    - "You cannot imagine how it spoils one to have been a child prodigy."

    - "It is my fervent wish and my greatest ambition to leave a work with a few useful instructions for the pianists after me."

    - "Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist."

    - "Without any assistance whatever, I founded a school in Weimar in 10 years. Only I could perform certain works with the scanty means that I dared not ask anyone else to work with."

    - "The public is always good."

    - "The principal task of a conductor is not to put himself in evidence but to disappear behind his functions as much as possible. We are pilots, not servants."

    - "The character of instrumental music... lets the emotions radiate and shine in their own character without presuming to display them as real or imaginary representations."

    - "I feel thoroughly contemptible as a musician, whereas you, as I have now convinced myself, are the greatest musician of all times." Wagner to Liszt

    Links - where to go for more information 

    - The Liszt Society (UK)

    - Liszt Museum, Budapest

    - Biography.com

    - Liszt at Favorite-classical-composers.com - a biography and essays on his music

    - Classical Net: A biography and recommended recordings.


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