Born on October 22, 1811 in Raiding (then Doborján) Hungary Franz Liszt was at the age of six recognized as a child prodigy. His father Adam, who played the cello in the local orchestra, taught Franz piano. Employed as a secretary by Prince Nicholas Esterházy Adam asked for extended leave to further his son's musical education.
Adding further to Adam's plea was a letter of request in 1822 by Antonio Salieri, who was astonished upon hearing the young Liszt play at a private house and wished to freely train the child in composition. The Prince finally gave the Liszt's leave to stay in Vienna. Liszt at this time also studied piano under Carl Czerny - Beethoven's esteemed pupil. This lasted only eighteen months.
Tours and many performances generated amazement and praise for the young Liszt by audiences, musicians and Kings. They were especially impressed by his uncanny ability to improvise an original composition from a melody suggested by the audience. Playing on par with established professionals at age 12 Liszt was fast becoming a sensation.
Eventually traveling to Paris seeking admittance to the Paris Conservatory the young Liszt was denied by Luigi Cherubini due to his being a foreigner, even though Cherubini himself was Italian. Adam then resorted to Ferdinando Paer to teach Franz composition in 1824. It was during this time that Liszt wrote his first and only opera Don Sanche, later performed in 1825.
Liszt's later years are marked with a new reflective nature with greater simplicity of form yet more extreme in harmony. Criticism of these misunderstood pieces would prompt Liszt to instruct his students not to perform his works in public, as not to hinder their budding careers. While some obeyed others continued the cause of their great master.
Upon Liszt's visit to Bayreuth to attend a Wagner fest hosted by Cosima, his daughter and widow of Wagner, he fell gravely ill with pneumonia. Surrounded by his adoring pupils Friedheim, Siloti, Stavenhagen and others, who were eventually refused admittance to his room by Cosima, the grand master died at 11:30 PM on July 31, 1886. At the organ playing solemnly at his funeral was Anton Bruckner. Through the succeeding years Liszt's genius as a composer would gradually surface shedding light on many previously unheard masterworks. That Strauss, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Sibelius and countless others would reap the benefits of studying his innovative work would be evident in time and indelibly mark Liszt's profound impact on music history.