Liebling was born in Pless, Silesia. He studied music and the piano with Ehrlich, Heinrich Dorn, and Theodor Kullak in Berlin, and with Dachs in Vienna. In 1867 he came to the United States, where he settled as a music teacher, teaching in Kentucky until 1871. Upon a subsequent visit to Europe, he studied under Franz Liszt at Weimar. After 1872 he was identified with the musical life of Chicago. His compositions include piano pieces and songs.
Liebling served as visiting director of piano at the Frances Shimer Academy in Mount Carroll, Illinois, from 1904 to 1913. The position involved visiting the school several times per year to perform a concert and inspect student progress. He also held a similar position at Milwaukee-Downer College in Wisconsin.
- Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Liebling, Emil". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- "Emil Liebling, Pianist, Dead". The New York Times. January 21, 1914.