Lajos (Ludwig) Széchényi, eldest son of Ferenc Széchényi, studied law. He took part in the nobles’ rebellion against Napoleon, took charge of a group of 187 soldiers and fought at the battle of Gyor in 1809, where he was wounded. From 1824 to 1845 Lajos Széchényi was chief court chamberlain for the Archduchess Sophie, mother of the later Emperors Franz Joseph and Maximilian. Lajos was an assiduous follower of his brother István’s pioneering activities in the name of Hungary, and supported him through his writing.
Lajos was a talented actor, wrote German poetry, composed music and was a good pianist and singer. There are reports of two of his concerts given before an imperial audience, in which he performed his own compositions for piano. The Archduchess Marie Louise, who would later become Napoleon’s wife, wrote in 1810, ‘Yesterday we heard some very fine waltzes, compositions by Louis Széchényi.’
In 1817 Schubert set two of his poems to music (Die abgeblühte Linde (‘The Faded Linden Tree’) and Der Flug der Zeit (‘The Flight of Time’)) and went on to dedicate the famous song Der Tod und das Mädchen (‘Death and the Maiden’) to Lajos. It is thought that Lajos may have been a pupil of Haydn. In 1825 Benedict Randhartinger (1802–1893), who later became a court singer and deputy Kapellmeister, became Lajos Széchényi’s private secretary on Schubert’s recommendation. Randhartinger dedicated his Grand Trio, Op. 10 to Lajos.
Befitting his social standing, Lajos ran an impressive salon in Vienna. It was here that he presented a young Franz Liszt in 1835, laying the foundations for friendly relations between the Széchényi family and Liszt that would be continued by Lajos’s brother István and son Imre.
Lajos wrote music for piano, songs, chamber music and orchestral works. His compositional oeuvre, such as we are aware of it, can be dated largely to the period of his first marriage (1801–22), to Countess Aloyzia von Clam-Gallas.