Liszt was born in 1811 at Raiding in Hungary.
He was the son of a steward in the service of the Esterhazy family, patrons of Haydn.
As a child he moved to Vienna, where he took piano lessons from Czerny and composition lessons from
In 1823, he moved to Paris with his family, from where he toured as a pianist.
Influenced by the violinist Paganini, he turned his attention to the development of a similar technique as a pianist.
In 1835 he left Paris with his mistress, the Comtesse d'Agoult, with whom he traveled
during the following years.
In the meanwhile his reputation as a pianist grew.
In 1844 he separated from his mistress, the mother of his three children, and in 1848 settled in Weimar as Director of Music Extraordinary, accompanied by Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein and turning his attention now to composition and in particular to the creation of the symphonic poem.
In 1861 Liszt moved to Rome.
From 1869 he returned regularly to Weimar, where he had many pupils, and later he accepted similar obligations in Budapest.
He died in Bayreuth in 1886.
The best known of the symphonic poems are Ce qu'on entend sur la
montagne, based on Victor Hugo, Les preludes, based on Lamartine, works based on Byron's Tasso and Mazeppa, and Prometheus, with the so-called Faust Symphony in Three Character-Sketches after Goethe and the Symphony on Dante's Divina commedia.
Other orchestral works include two episodes from Lenau's Faust, the second the First Mephisto Waltz, to which a second was added twenty years later, in 1881.
Liszt wrote two piano concertos, and, among other works for piano and orchestra, a Totentanz or Dance of Death and a Fantasy on Hungarian Folk-Melodies.
Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies, written for piano, have been effectively arranged for orchestra.
Liszt wrote a great deal of music for the piano.
In addition to original piano music, he also made many transcriptions of the work of other composers and wrote works based on national themes.
The violinist Paganini was an inspiration for the
Etudes d'execution transcendante d'apres Paganini, dedicated to Clara Schumann, (wife of the composer Robert Schumann) and based on five of the 24 Caprices for solo violin by Paganini and on the latter's
The Transcendental Studies, revised in 1851, Etudes d'execution transcendante, form a set of twelve pieces, including Wilde Jagd (a Wild Hunt), Harmonies du soir (Evening Harmony), and
The three collections, later given the title
Annees de Pelerinage (Years of Pilgrimage), a series of evocative poetic pictures, inspired by landscape, poems and works of art.
Earlier volumes are from the years of living with Marie d'Agoult, and the last from the final period of Liszt's life, based in Rome.
The Harmonies poetiques et religieuses, written between 1845 and 1852, represent something of the composer's lasting religious feelings.
The remarkable Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, based on a theme from a Bach cantata, mourns the death of his elder daughter Blandine.
His Fantasia and Fugue was originally written for organ.
The Hungarian Rhapsodies, eventually appearing as a set of nineteen pieces, are based on a form of art music familiar in Hungary and created by gypsy musicians.
The Rhapsody Espagnole makes use of the well known La folia theme, used by Corelli and many other Baroque composers, and the jota
Transcriptions of his own orchestral and choral compositions include a version of the second of his three Mephisto Waltzes, works that supported legends that had once dogged Paganini of diabolical assistance in performance.
Of the many other transcriptions for piano those of the Beethoven Symphonies are the most impressive.
There are a number of operatic transcriptions and fantasies, including Reminiscences de Don Juan (based on
Mozart's Don Giovanni), one of a number of bravura piano works using themes from opera, that include many based on the work of his son-in-law