The Polish pianist and composer, Carl [Karl] Tausig, was born to Jewish parents and received his early musical education from his father, Aloys T. Tausig (1820-1885), who was a pupil of Thalberg and a composer of brilliant pianoforte music. When Carl was 14 years of age his father took him to Weimar to study under Franz Liszt, whose favorite pupil he soon became and the two and travelled together.
In 1858 Carl Tausig made his début in public at an orchestral concert conducted by Bülow at Berlin; and during the following two years he gave concerts in various German cities. After a sojourn at Dresden he went to Vienna (1862), where, however, his classical programs and his artistic views failed to find acceptance. He married in 1865, settled in Berlin the same year, and soon afterwards opened a piano school (Schule des Höheren Klavierspiels), and occasionally gave pianoforte recitals. Shortly before his death he made several concert tours through Germany and Russia, and was everywhere received with enthusiasm. He died in Leipzig from typhoid at the age of 29.
Carl Tausig, who was known for his exemplary technique, ranks with Franz Liszt and Rubinstein as one of the three greatest pianists of the 19th century. F. Liszt himself said that Tausig had "fingers of steel". He was one of the stanchest champions of the "music of the future". At the age of 16 he met Richard Wagner, of whom he became a devoted follower. Wagner enjoyed patronising him (as is evident from Wagner's autobiography, My Life) despite his Jewish background. Tausig made piano arrangements of many of Wagner's operas. He also introduced to Wagner his friend Peter Cornelius, another Wagner adept. It was Tausig who formulated a plan for raising 300,000 thaler for building the Bayreuth Theater, and who "with his exceptional endowment and splendid energy seemed to regard the execution of this plan as his own particular task" (Richard Wagner, Gesammelte Schriften, ix. 385). An epitaph composed by Wagner (l.c. p. 386) was inscribed on Tausig's tombstone.
Carl Tausig's output as composer is quite small and little explored today. As well as entirely original works, he arranged for piano music of a number of composers, and wrote a number of pedagogic works (works for teaching and practice). Of his original compositions and numerous arrangements of classical works the following may be mentioned: Deux Etudes de Concert, replacing an earlier pianoforte transcription of his symphonic ballad Das Geisterschiff; Ungarische Zigeunerweisen, a composition for pianoforte; Nouvelles Soirées de Vienne; Tägliche Studien, finger exercises of high value; a selection of studies from Clementi's Gradus ad Parnassum; a transcription of Bach's J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565; and adaptations of Wéber's Aufforderung zum Tanz, of six L.v. Beethoven quartets; transcriptions of Schubert's Marche Militaire and of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, The Ride of Valkyries, Siegmund`s Love Song.