Franz Liszt

Portrait of Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, famous virtuoso pianist, and teacher of the Romantic period. He is considered one of the most prolific and influential composers of his era and still remains a popular composer in the modern concert piano repertoire. He was born on 22nd October 1811 in Raiding, Austria and died on 31st July 1886 in Bayreuth, Germany aged 74. 

Major Works

2 Piano Concertos
“Hungarian Rhapsodies” (From 1846) 
“Mephisto Waltz No. 2” (1880) 
Piano Sonata In B Minor (1852)
“A Faust Symphony” (1854)
“Dante Symphony” (1855)
“Totentanz” (1847)

Biography Timeline

Franz Liszt was born on 22nd October 1811 in Doborjan, Sopron in the Kingdom of Hungary. His father was Adam Liszt who had been in the service of Prince Nikolaus the Second Esterhazy and knew Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven personally and played the piano, violin, cello, and guitar. His mother was Anna Liszt (née Maria Anna Lager).

1820: His first public performance was held in October at the Sopron Casino.

1821: His parents take him to live in Vienna where he studies piano with Carl Czerny, and composition with Antoni Salieri.

1822: He is a success in Austrian and Hungarian aristocratic circles and gives a public performance in Vienna.

1823: He performs in Vienna and Ludwig van Beethoven is present. He gives his first performance in Pest. He then goes to live in Paris arriving in December where he studies with Ferdinando Paer.

1824: First concert tour in England.

1825: Concert tour in France and second visit to England.

1826: He studies composition with Anton Reicha.

1827: His father dies and he teaches pupils in Paris to earn money.

1828: He has a love affair with Caroline de Saint-Cricq but has a spiritual crisis and becomes seriously ill.

1830: On 4th December he meets Hector Berlioz and the next day attends the premiere of the “Symphonie Fantastique”. 

1831: He hears Niccolo Paganini for the first time. He meets Frederic Chopin and Felix Mendelssohn.

1833: He is a witness at the marriage of Berlioz and the actress Harriet Smithson.

1834: He has a relationship with Marie d’Agoult. During the summer he is the guest of Abbe Lamennais in La Chesnaye.

1835: Marie d’Agoult leaves her family for Liszt and they move to Switzerland. He teaches at the Geneva Conservatory and on 18th December his daughter Blandine is born.

1836: He arrives in Paris with Marie on 16th October.

1837: He introduces Frederic Chopin to George Sand. On 24th December his daughter Cosima is born in Como, Italy.

1839: His son Daniel is born on 9th May. In October he pledges to contribute his own money to finance a Beethoven statue. .

1840: On 4th January he is awarded the sword of honour. on 11th January he conducts for the first time and is made an honorary citizen of Sopron. He goes on a substantial concert tour of Europe and visits England, Scotland and Ireland.

1841: Brussels, Liege. Paris concert. First meeting with Wagner. April 26: concert with Berlioz for the benefit of the Beethoven statue. September 18: enters the “Unity” Lodge of the Freemasons. November: in Weimar.

1842: He is made a member of the Prussian Royal Academy of Arts and is awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Konigsberg. In April he gives his first concert in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

1843: On 1st February he conducts “The Magic Flute” He meets Glinka. Hamburg. At the end of December he enters service at the court of Weimar, Germany

1845: The first performance of his Beethoven Cantata is given in August at the Bonn Beethoven Festival.

1846: In September he is made an honorary citizen of Koszeg. 

1847: In February Liszt makes the acquaintance in Kiev of Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein and gives the last concerts of his piano virtuoso period. 

1848: Princess Wittgenstein leaves Russia and meets Liszt in Krzyzanowice and they go together to Weimar. Liszt sees Richard Wagner in Dresden.

1849: The Princess’s request for a divorce is rejected. On 16th February Liszt conducts Wagner’s “Tannhauser” in Weimar and in May comes to live with Liszt as he has had to flee his home.

1850: On 24th August the premiere of “Prometheus” is held. The world premiere of Wagner’s “Lohengrin” is conducted by in Weimar on 28th August.

1852: He gives the first performance of Berlioz’s “Benvenuto Cellini” in Weimar.

1853: He is visited by Johannes Brahms. In July Liszt visits Wagner in Zurich and Wagner meets his daughter Cosima for the first time.

1854: Premiere of “Orpheus” and “Les Preludes”.

1855: In February Berlioz conducts Liszt’s Concerto in E flat with Liszt as the soloist. Liszt’s pupil Tsar Alexander the Second Removes citizenship from Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein and confiscates her property.

1856: The conductor Hans von Bulow proposes to Cosima. In May first performance of the B-A-C-H Prelude is held in Merseburg. On 31st August the “Gran Mass” is performed at the consecration of the Esztergom Basilica. 

1857: On 22nd January the Sonata in B minor is first performance by Hans von Bulow. On 18th August Cosima and Bullow marry with Liszt present. On 5th September in Weimar the premiere of the “Faust Symphony” is held. On 7th November the “Dante Symphony” is a failure in Dresden.

1858: He resigns his post as conductor in Weimar.

1859: In January Wagner and Liszt have a disagreement. On 13th December Daniel Liszt dies in Berlin. The princess loses favour at court and Liszt’s position becomes increasingly difficult.

1860: Their is a protest against the new German music from various musicians including Johannes Brahms. In May the princess travels to Rome, to plead with the Pope in the matter of her divorce. On 25th August Liszt is made an Officer of the French Legion d’Honneur.

1861: Premiere of the “Mephisto Waltz” on 8th March. In August he leaves Weimar and sees Marie d’Agoult, Gioachino Rossini and Charles Gounod in Paris. Liszt plays in front of the Emperor Napoleon the Third and his wife at the Tuilleries. In Rome in October his marriage is prevented at the last minute by the Pope.

1863: He moves into the Madonna del Rosario cloister, on the Monte Mario in Rome. He is visited by Pope Pius the Ninth.

1864: In July he is the guest of Cardinal Hohenlohe at the Villa d’Este, in Tivoli near Rome. He plays for the Pope at Castel Gandolfo. Prince Sayn-Wittgenstein dies later in the year.

1865: The premiere of “Totentanz”, is held in the Hague on 15th April. on 25th April tonsure is conferred upon Liszt by Cardinal Hohenlohe and he moves to the Vatican. In July he receives minor orders.

1866: His mother dies in Paris on 6th February. In March the Gran Mass is a failure at Saint Eustache in Paris. 

1867: In Buda the premiere of the Coronation Mass is held in the Matthias Church on the occasion of the coronation of Francis Joseph the First and Elizabeth on 8th June.

1869: He meets Edvard Grieg in Rome during the winter.

1870: Lenbach paints his portrait in July in Munich. Richard Wagner and Cosima get married in Lucerne on 25th August. 

1871: On 13th June he is granted the title of Royal Counsellor, with an annual stipend of 4,000 Forints. and resides permanently in Pest.

1873: In May the complete “Christus Oratorio” is performed in Weimar with Liszt conducting.

1874: He conducts his “Coronation Mass” in March. 

1875: He and Wagner have a joint concert at the Redoute on 10th March. He becomes President of the Academy of Music.

1876: In Bayreuth he meets Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

1877: World premiere in New York on 5th March of “Saint Elizabeth, Redoute” with Liszt conducting. He meets Alexander Borodin in Weimar. 

1878: In June he is a member of the panel of judges at the World Exhibition in Paris.

1881: On 9th March the Second “Mephisto Waltz” is first performed by the Philharmonic Society. In May he is made a corresponding member of the Paris Academie des Beaux-Arts.

1882: In August he attends the first five performances of “Parsifal” in Bayreuth. He is with Wagner in Venice in December.

1884: He conducts for the last time in May at German General Music Association Congress in Weimar. 

1885: On 28th March he plays in public for the last time in Budapest, at the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

1886: In April he is received by Queen Victoria in London. In May he becomes ill and in June he travels toSondershausen to see a doctor. In July he attends the wedding of Daniela von Bullow in Bayreuth.

Franz Liszt died in Bayreuth, Germany, on 31st July 1886, of pneumonia. He was buried on 3rd August in the Municipal Cemetery of Bayreuth much against his wishes.

Further Information

List of compositions by Liszt.