Born in Hungary on October 22, 1811, Franz Liszt spent much of his life traveling. A large portion of his adolescence was spent in Paris, and it was here, on April 20, 1832, that he saw the great Paganini playing violin. Liszt was inspired by the master’s performance, and resolved to become as great a pianist as Paganini was a violinist.
By 1835, Liszt was a touring virtuoso and composer, rapidly building a reputation across all of Europe. By 1842, his fame was such that the term Lisztomania had been coined to describe it. He was the John Lennon of his day, although more temperate about comparing himself to Jesus. Liszt donated a large portion of his fees to charity – in fact, by 1857, this portion was virtually the entirety.
After an injury in 1881, Liszt’s health began to decline, and his compositions from this point onward show an increasing preoccupation with mortality. He finally died of pneumonia, although it has been suggested that a certain degree of medical malpractice may have contributed to his demise.
After his death, Liszt’s close friend Camille Saint-Saëns dedicated his third symphony to him in memorial.