György Adam Liszt

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About György Adam Liszt

Family history

The earliest known ancestor in the paternal line is the composer's great-grandfather Sebastian List [sic]. Sebastian was a cotter ("Söllner"), said to be born in Rajka, Moson county, in about 1703, where he died on January 7, 1793. Rajka lies a few kilometers east of Deutsch Jahrndorf, practically at today's intersection of Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. The German name of this market town was Ragendorf. In the Hungarian census of 1910, the population declared itself as 2,200 ethnic Germans, 400 Magyars and a few Slovaks, by religion about half/half Roman-catholic and Lutheran, with a strong Jewish minority of 170. From all that is known, the List family was catholic (other religions were suppressed until the tolerance edict of 1781). Strangely, in his biography, Prof. Walker writes that Sebastian List had come to Rajka/Ragendorf in, apparently, one of the Swabian settlement treks under Empress Maria Theresia. In this case, he obviously could not have been born in Rajka. Since the Salt Lake City Library of the LDS has copies of the roman-catholic church records of Rajka for which baptisms go back to 1685, I have decided to review these records myself and will let the readers of the Burgenland Bunch newsletter know of the results.

Sebastian List first married Anna Maria Roth, born about 1713, who died in Rajka, house no. 120, on October 17, 1786. On January 9, 1787, Sebastian married a second time, a widow with name Christina Sándor, born in 1731. (For the marriage date, I am indebted to Mr. Bruno List of Switzerland who, while not related to the composer, has compiled his own family's history and, in doing so, has kept an active interest in other List lines including a special interest in the composer.) Christina List, born or widowed Sándor, died in Rajka on March 9, 1791.

Children appear to exist only from Sebastian's first marriage. The Liszt tree in Walker's book mentions an Ursula List, born on October 30, 1748 in Rajka, who on January 25, 1767 married Franz Liebenwein. A brother of Ursula, Johann Christoph List, was born in Rajka on August 26, 1851, but died a few days later on September 2. The third and apparently last child of Sebastian and Anna Maria List was Georg Adam List (Liszt), Franz Liszt's grandfather.

Franz Liszt's paternal grandparents

As stated, Liszt's paternal grandfather was Georg Adam List/Liszt, born on October 14, 1755 in Rajka. Georg was an exceptionally unbending, controversial character with a checkered career. He served as cantor-teacher and local notary in Edelstal (Hungarian name Nemesvölgy), Kittsee (Köpcsény), Pottersdorf (see the discussion below), and Sankt Georgen (Lajtaszentgyörgy), today almost a suburb of Eisenstadt. He must have made enemies of at least part of the population of St. Georgen. After he had taught there for seven years, the school's principal laid charges against him and Georg was dismissed from his job. A reconciliation attempt by Superintendent Siess of Eisenstadt ended in failure. In October 1801, at age 46 and after 25 years as a teacher, Georg was forced to leave his profession, and never managed to return to it.

Perhaps with the help of son Adam (Franz Liszt's father-to-be), who had started to work for the Esterházys in Forchtenau, and may have pointed his father to a job vacancy in Marz, the Eszterházy family now gave Georg an administrative job at one of their lumberyards in Marz (Márczfalva). Soon new suspicions, probably related to careless bookkeeping, fell on him. Son Adam perhaps once again intervened behind the scenes, and is believed to have helped secure yet another assignment for his father, this time at the Esterházy lumberyards in Mattersdorf (today's Mattersburg, Hungarian name Nagymárton). After his third marriage in 1807 with a wife 25 years his junior, Georg engaged in diversions such as day-trips to Vienna's Prater amusement park (at least 60 kilometers away) using his official coach, exploits which tended to fatigue him for his duties. After two more investigations by the authorities, Georg Adam finally lost his job with the Esterházys for good. It was the year 1812, and his soon to be famous grandson Franz had just been born. A poorly documented period of desperation for Georg's family followed. Among others, it appears that he first (in 1812) moved in, together with wife and eight underage children, with son Adam in Raiding in Adam's rather small cottage, and the family stayed there for at least a full year. It must have been an unbearable situation. In about 1819, the family ended up in Pottendorf (Lower Austria), not far from Eisenstadt, where Georg, already over 60, sought a job in a clothing factory. The factory had been founded around 1801 and was partly owned by the Esterházys (who had also acquired the estate/possession of Pottendorf).

Only after the stunning performance of his genius grandson Franz in Pressburg in 1820, did Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy start to look more favorably at Georg, and granted him an appointment as organist and choirmaster in Pottendorf. Georg faced poverty once more in 1838 and Prince Paul Esterházy, who by then had taken over as head of his family, stepped in and granted Georg an appointment and salary for life. Georg died on August 8, 1844 in Pottendorf. (I thank Burgenland Bunch member and co-editor Albert Schuch for providing the time-line for the reign of Nikolaus II and the facts about the foundation of the clothing factory in Pottendorf.)

Walker's research suggests that there is a question mark about the identity of "Pottersdorf," the third station in Georg's career as a teacher. It may have been the village of Pottendorf in Lower Austria, but other options might be Podersdorf in the Lake Corner (Pátfalu), or Pöttelsdorf (near Mattersburg, Hungarian Petõfalva). Indeed, as we shall see, the birthplace of one of Georg's children, Theresia, born in about 1792/93, just between the tenures in Kittsee and St. Georgen, appears to be still unidentified.

Georg List/Liszt first married at age 19. His wife was Barbara Schlesak, born on November 28, 1753 in Rusovce, northwest of Rajka. The marriage of the couple took place on January 17, 1775 in Rusovce. The Hungarian name of Rusovce was Oroszvár, its German name Karlburg. In the census of 1910, Rusovce's ethnic composition was about 1,250 Germans, 450 Magyars, and 30 Slovaks, of which 1,450 were Roman-catholic and 300 Lutheran. Today, Rusovce is part of the Slovak Republic, located on the only tiny sliver of land of Slovakia that is on the right bank of the Danube, to the south of Bratislava. Barbara's parents were Johann Schlesak, a cotter ("Söllner"), born likely in Rusovce at an unknown date, and Maria nee Düring, born on February 28, 1733 in Rusovce. Barbara's parents had married on September 16, 1749 in Rusovce.

Until her death on March 31, 1798 in St. Georgen, Barbara bore Georg 13 children (for details see next section). Her second child, Adam, was Franz Liszt's father. Only six weeks after her death, Georg remarried, this time Barbara Weniger, born April 29, 1778 in St. Georgen. With her, Georg had 5 more offspring. Soon after the birth of her fifth child, Barbara nee Weniger died, on December 21, 1806 in Mattersburg. Barely seven weeks after her death, Georg, at age 52, was married for the third time, in February 1807 with Magdalena Richter, born 1780. Magdalena bore Georg seven more children. She died on March 17, 1856 in Vienna, probably under the care of her most famous child, Eduard Liszt, the last of Georg's children, a half-brother of Adam, who became K&K Public Prosecutor in Vienna.

There is an interesting anecdote connected with the third marriage of Georg Adam List. He was severely reprimanded for not informing his superiors about this marriage beforehand, and asked for an explanation. Georg replied that he had 12 small children who were without proper care while he was at work, and that these children needed a mother more than he needed another wife. However, there might be a subliminal alternative reason for Georg's action of telling nobody of the planned marriage. Since 1794, Nikolaus II had been at the helm of the Esterházy family which, at these times, still ruled as overlords over their possessions and subjects. Nicholas became one of the most avid collectors of rare objects and art, and the collection of excellent paintings he gathered together for his family by canvassing all of Europe, later formed the basis of the collection of the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest. However, Nikolaus II also became notorious for his ruthless chasing of young women. He apparently had a team of scouts engaged who had to tour his possessions on the lookout for young maidens. It is quite possible, I believe, that considering his peculiar character, informing his superiors about the planned marriage was quite an unpalatable thought for Georg.

Finally, it is noteworthy in connection with Georg that he was the first generation of his line who changed the writing of the family name from List to the "Hungarian" spelling Liszt (which will be discussed later). However, he may have taken a cue from his son Adam (Franz Liszt's father) who appears to have been the first in time who had switched to the new spelling. Georg used the new spelling only in his late years.(to be continued next issue).

Newsletter continues as no. 93C.

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György Adam Liszt's Timeline

October 14, 1755
Rajka, Győr-Moson-Sopron County, Hungary
September 19, 1775
Age 19
December 16, 1776
Age 21
Edelstal, Neusiedl am See District, Burgenland, Austria
November 3, 1778
Age 23
September 12, 1780
Age 24
August 30, 1781
Age 25
June 22, 1783
Age 27
January 24, 1785
Age 29
October 31, 1786
Age 31
Kittsee, Neusiedl am See District, Burgenland, Austria