Liszt noted on the sonata's manuscript that it was completed on February 2, 1853, but he had composed an earlier version by 1849. At this point in his life, Liszt's career as a traveling virtuoso had almost entirely subsided, as he had been influenced towards leading the life of a composer rather than a performer by Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein almost five years earlier. Liszt's life was established in Weimar and he was living a comfortable lifestyle, composing, and occasionally performing, entirely by choice rather than necessity.
The sonata was dedicated to Robert Schumann, in return for Schumann's dedication of his Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17 to Liszt. A copy of the sonata arrived at Schumann's house in May 1854, after he had entered Endenich sanatorium. His wife Clara Schumann did not perform the sonata; according to scholar Alan Walker she found it "merely a blind noise".