Paolo Tosti was born in Ortona (central Italy) on April 9, 1846. He received there his first music lessons before entering the Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella in Naples at the age of 11. He studied violin with Pinto and composition with Saverio Mercadante. He became his assistant but had to return to his hometown for health reasons eventually. Compelled to stay in bed for several months, Paolo Tosti composed several romances, which were rejected by the Florentine Art Society and the publisher Ricordi.
Cured, he went to Ancona and then to Rome, where he could finally get out of the extreme poverty in which he lived before. He met the pianist and composer Giovanni Sgambati, who took him under his wing very quickly. Thanks to him, Tosti had the opportunity to impress the princess Margaret of Savoy, future queen of Italy, during a concert. Afterwards, she hired him as a singing teacher, and then as curator of the musical archives of the Court.
In 1880, he became the choirmaster of the Royal Family. Five years later, he was considered the most popular composer of romances in England (the song ‘For Ever and For Ever’ had a great success). He became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in 1894 and acquired British nationality in 1906, two years before being knighted by his friend Edward VII. Paolo Tosti died in Rome on December 2, 1916, having spent his last three years in Italy.