Franz Liszt, a Hungarian pianist and composer, born at Raiding, near Oedenburg, Oct. 22, 1811. At six years of age he manifested so extraordinary an aptitude for music, that his father, himself a musician of some repute, thenceforth carefully instructed him on the pianoforte. In his ninth year he performed at a public concert in Presburg at which were present several wealthy Hungarian noblemen. The latter, astonished at young Liszt's talents, at once proposed to contribute to his musical education during the next six years. In accordance with this proposition Liszt was taken by his father to Vienna and put under the instruction of Karl Czerny and Salieri, with whom he remained about 18 months, after which he appeared in concerts in Vienna, Munich, and elsewhere, with great success. At Paris, where he arrived in 1823, he received the most flattering attentions. Although rejected as a pupil by the conservatory on account of his foreign birth, he was carefully instructed in counterpoint by Reicha, and not a day passed in which he did not give many hours of practice to the works of Bach and other eminent composers for the pianoforte. "When his education was considered finished, father and son made lucrative concert tours in the provinces and in England. Upon his return to Paris in 1825, Franz produced an opera in one act entitled Don Sanche, ou le chateau de l'amour, which only escaped condemnation on account of the youth of the composer.
In 1827 he lost his father, an event which made a deep impres-sion upon him, and under the influence of an unusually active imagination he surrendered himself to gloomy fancies and religious rhapsodies. An unhappy attachment to a woman of rank at the same time prompted him to retire from the world, and for several years he almost wholly relinquished his art. In this interval he embraced at different times the doctrines of the St. Simonians, the philosophy of Lamennais, and the vivid poetic fancies of Victor Hugo or George Sand. During the revolution of July, 1830, he composed a Symphonic revolutionaire, which was never published. The appearance of Paganini in Paris in 1831 roused him from this mood, and, full of the idea of becoming the Paganini of the pianoforte, he resumed his practice on that instrument. In 1835 he heard of the success of Thalberg in Paris, and, after an interval of eight years, suddenly made his reappearance there with an eclat which his long absence had in no respect diminished.
A contemporary critic, in enumerating the qualities which distinguished both pianists, observed: "Thalberg is the first, but Liszt is the only one." From Paris Liszt proceeded in 1837 to Italy, creating everywhere a sensation not less lively than that caused by Paganini. At Vienna he gave a series of concerts in aid of the sufferers by the great inundation of 1838 at Pesth; and at the solicitation of a deputation of Hungarian noblemen he subsequently visited the latter city, where he was received with extraordinary enthusiasm, and was presented by the inhabitants with a sword of honor and the rights of citizenship. In 1839 an effort was made to raise by subscription a sum sufficient to erect a monument to Beethoven in Bonn, his birthplace. At the end of six months only 600 francs had been subscribed, when Liszt contributed the whole amount (about 60,000 francs) necessary for the completion of the monument, and it was inaugurated in August, 1845. From 1838 to 1847 his career was a succession of triumphs. In the latter year he retired to a small village in Germany, with the intention of devoting himself to a higher order of composition than the fantasias and other pianoforte pieces which he had previously produced.
About this time he accepted an offer from the duke of Weimar to assume the post of conductor of the court concerts and the opera at Weimar. In this position he made Weimar one of the chief musical centres of Europe, and helped to introduce to notice several of the rising composers of Germany, notably Richard Wagner. With characteristic generosity he also afforded gratuitous instruction to young pianists, for whose benefit he gave private performances. During this period he produced his most important musical compositions. His Faustsymphonie mit Chor, Granermesse, Kronungsmesse, and his oratorios Die Heilige Elisabeth and Christus, created a great sensation and gave rise to much criticism and discussion. In 1861 he went to Koine and became a great favorite of the pope. In 1865 he took ecclesiastical orders; and since that time he has been known as the abbe Liszt, and has devoted himself principally to the composition of church music. In 1870 he acted as leader of the Beethoven festival at Weimar, and afterward gave concerts for charitable and religious objects in Munich, Vienna, Pesth, and other cities.
In 1871 he suddenly offered for sale his villa at Rome, and took up his residence in Pesth; and in 1874, the 50th year of his artistic career, he gave to the museum of Pesth his valuable collection of curiosities and works of art. As a performer Liszt stands at the head of what has been called the " prodigious" school, excelling in the production of difficult and novel effects. His fingering is firm, vigorous, and wonderfully flexible; but he labors under the imputation, not altogether unfounded, of sacrificing grace to strength, and of a desire to astonish rather than to charm by his playing. Bach, Handel, Beethoven, and the older composers have, however, had no more eloquent interpreter, notwithstanding he cannot always avoid substituting his own ideas for theirs. He has been an active contributor to musical literature, and is the author of a "Life of Chopin" (1852; English translation by Martha Walker Cook, 1863), of a work on " The Gypsies and their Music" (Paris, 1859), and of numerous articles in the Neue, Zeitschrift fur Musik. His Theoretische und praktische Musik, in 3 vols., is announced for publication in 1875. He has been one of the mostprolific composers of this generation. His works number several hundred, and belong to almost every department of the art.
During the earlier parts of his career he was more conspicuous as an arranger of the ideas of others than as an original composer. He has made fantasies and improvisations on nearly all the popular Italian and German operas, and has transcribed for the piano a great number of German songs. His compositions for orchestra are numerous, and display boldness of treatment and variety of instrumental effect rather than originality or beauty of thought.