"An Abbe, honorary canon of Albano, a sincere mystic and at the same time one of history's most publicized lovers, incredible showman, hypnotic virtuoso, astonishing amalgam of magician, zealot and philanthropist, Liszt is easily the most colorful personality in the history of music" (Lieberson 256.) From his dazzling beginning in the musical circles of Vienna as a child prodigy of eleven years old, Ferenc (Franz) Liszt would establish himself as the leading piano virtuoso and one of the foremost progressive forces in music of his day. .
Franz Liszt was born in Raiding, Hungary (now part of Austria) about thirty miles from Vienna, Austria (Longyear 105.) His Father was steward to the family of Esterhazy and a good amateur musician; consequently, he was also Liszt's first piano teacher. Young Liszt's extraordinary abilities were recognized without delay and he was soon taken to Vienna to study piano under Czerny and composition under Salieri (the former teacher of Schubert, an acquaintance of Liszt's.) His phenomenal aptitude for the piano at the age of eleven was greeted with a kiss from Beethoven, and praised endlessly by the musical circles of the day. In 1823, Liszt went to Paris, where he studied music theory and composition (Politoske 1.) The French immediately recognized him as a brilliant performer with an almost uncanny ability to improvise on the keyboard. He had once wanted to become a priest, but inspired by the success of Niccolo Paganini, he then worked to become as much a master of the piano as Paganini was of the violin. Soon he became in touch and at home with Parisian culture, fully immersing himself in the society, literature, and art with friends such as writers Hugo, Lamartine, George Sand, Sainte-Beuve and painters like Delacroix. He also met the Countess Marie d'Agoult, the writer known as Daniel Stern, who was his mistress from 1835 until 1844 and the mother of his daughter Cosima (the future wife of Wagner) (Scholes 576).