He studied with composer Wilhelm Mayer in Graz and Carl Reinecke in Leipzig.
He held to the philosophy, "Music was born free; and to win freedom is its destiny," which had an impact on his students, including future 20th-century innovators Percy Grainger and Edgard Varèse.
He was born into a musical family: his father Ferdinando was a clarinetist, and his mother Anna was a pianist.
His composition Concert Piece for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 31a, won him the 1890 Anton Rubinstein Competition.