Adam Liszt

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Adamus Liszt - (Ádám List)[1] (December 16, 1776 – August 28, 1827) was the father of composer and pianist Franz Liszt.

Family background[edit]

As the second child of Georg Adam Liszt and Katharina née Baumann[2] he was born in Edelstal (Nemesvölgy), a village close to the Austrian border in the Kingdom of Hungary. They lived in Marcz, (Burgenland, Kingdom of Hungary, today in Austria), Mattersburg (Nagymarton) and also Malacka (now Malacky, Slovakia).

Georg was in service for the Hungarian Nikolaus II, Prince Esterházy and both he and his son, Adam, were Hungarian citizens. The family lived mostly in the German speaking parts of Hungary, which is why they had only rudimentary knowledge of Hungarian. Franz Liszt tried to learn his native tongue only when it became compulsory in the 1870s, but in spite of his great language skills he couldn't reach a fluent level.

In his youth Adam changed his surname "List" to the spelling "Liszt", according to Hungarian pronunciation. In his lifetime, Latin, not Hungarian, was the administrative language of the multi-ethnic Kingdom of Hungary, hence the recorded Latinised name "Adamus". After the great success of his son Franz, the father Georg also started to use the surname Liszt in the 1820s. Other family members also adapted this form, e.g. Adam's brother, Eduard, father of Franz von Liszt.

Youth with musical career[edit]

As a teenager, he played cello in the House of Eszterházy summer orchestra under the direction of Joseph Haydn. He was also an amateur pianist, and played the organ and violin and sung in a choir. Also his brother Eduard and one sister Barbara showed great musical talents, as their father Georg who worked as an organist and played the piano and violin, but they had to little resources for musical education else than within the family. After graduating the Catholic Gymnasium (high school) in Pressburg (Bratislava), Adam entered the Franciscan Order, but two years later, by his petition in 1797, was released from the order. Adam still kept close relationship to the order, which probably gave him the inspiration to name his son Franz.

Adult work life[edit]

An attempt by Adam to continue as a student of philosophy at the University of Pressburg ended in the first year due to financial reasons. He had to look for a job, and in 1798 became a clerk at the Esterhazy estate in Forchtenau (today's Forchtenstein). After two years, Adam was transferred to Kapuvár (Kobrunn) where he was missing the musical atmosphere at Eisenstadt (Kismarton). He started to compose music and dedicate it to the Prince in order to be transferred back to the Western part of Sopron county. Only in 1805 did he finally succeed in getting a job at the court in Eisenstadt. The years in Eisenstadt were his happy years. In his spare time he played cello in the orchestra led by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, the successor of Haydn, and had the opportunity to work with many musicians who came to Eisenstadt to perform, including Cherubini and Beethoven. This happy time ended when in 1809 Adam was transferred to the Esterházy estate of Raiding as an overseer of the herd of about 50,000 sheep (Rentmeister der Fürstlich Esterházyschen Schäferei). Raiding, only 30 miles from Eisenstadt, was a rather provincial place.


While visiting his father in Mattersburg in the summer of 1810, Adam met Anna Lager who had recently moved from Vienna to Mattersburg. Their marriage took place in the parish of Unterfrauenhaid on January 11, 1811.[3]

The only child of the couple, Franz Liszt, was born on October 22, 1811. Adam's father Georg wrote to prince Esterházy in 1812 that Adam had 3 more children, but there is no other documentation about this, and it seems unlikely.[4]

Raising Franz Liszt[edit]

At his house in Raiding, Adam staged chamber concerts. While Franz was 5 and his musical genius revealed itself, when following his father's musical work, Adam started to teach him music. When the fame grew, sponsors could finance private education in Vienna for the young Franz. Franz's parents stayed close to their son throughout his travels to Vienna and Paris, where they settled in 1823. The purpose was to let Franz study at the famous Conservatoire de Paris, but they didn't admit foreigners, so Adam picked up teaching his son again, with a rigid schedule of practising Bach and other composers on the piano, with transposition of fugues and other daily technique improving exercises. Adam spent most of his time as the manager of his son's career, with tours in many European countries, and resigned from the service for prince Esterházy. Franz found his father's supervision quite demanding, but without it, he had difficulties to improve himself and didn't go back to hard exercises until a turning point much later, after meeting other young talented musicians like Paganini, Chopin and Mendelssohn, and realised what he was missing, and his career as a musician could continue.

The last time[edit]

Ádám died in 1827 in Boulogne-sur-Mer at the age of 50 when Franz was just 15 years old. They were staying at a retreat centre for Franz to rest after a physician's ordination, but instead the father became fatally ill in typhoid fever, and was buried there. Franz composed a funeral piece in conjunction to his father's funeral service.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ The official language of the multi-ethnic Kingdom of Hungary remained Latin until 1844 and had subsequently been replaced by Hungarian.
  2. ^ Michael Lorenz: "An Unknown Grandmother of Liszt", Vienna 2012.
  3. ^ Marriage of Maria Anna Lager and Adam Liszt:
  4. ^ Walker, Alan (1988): Franz Liszt: The virtuoso years, 1811-1847, Ithaka, NY: Cornell University Press