The Forefathers of Franz Liszt

As we approach Father’s Day, I thought I’d look at the paternal side of the life of some of our composers. Since we just wrapped up a look at Franz Liszt, let’s start with his patriarchal influences.

Franz definitely gets some of his good genes from his father’s side of the family. Liszt great-grandfather, Sebastian, was a farmer and lived until he was almost 90. Quite amazing for the 1700’s!

Franz’s grandfather, Georg, was the overseer for the Esterhazy estates. He also lived until he was almost 90 years of age, outliving Franz’s father, Adam. He played the piano, organ, and violin.

It is interesting to note that the original family name was List. Adam changed the spelling to Liszt, adopting the Hungarian spelling of their name. Once his grandson started to become famous, Georg started using Liszt as well.

Adam was born in 1776, Georg’s second child. Adam eventually worked for Prince Nokolaus II Esterhazy as well. In his teens, Adam played the cello in a summer orchestra directed by Haydn for the House of Eszterhazy. Adam was an amateur pianist as well. He also played the organ, violin, and sang. He knew both Haydn and Beethoven.

When Franz was a young boy, Adam took a one year leave from his position with the Prince in order to accompany Franz on several tours. At the end of the year, unable to secure Franz a place in the Conservatory in Paris, Adam asked for more time away. It was not granted and he decided to resign his position and continue instead to manage his son’s training and career.

Though a bit of a task master, Adam and Franz did have a good relationship. Franz was deeply pained when his father died of typhoid in 1827. Franz was just 15 years old and this would have a great impact on the next several years of his life as he became the sole support for his mother and himself.


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