Dr. Jay Hershberger, professor of piano, appeared as a guest on “Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast” to talk about the faith and music of composer and pianist Franz Liszt. Hershberger has had a lifelong passion for the music and life of the Austro-Hungarian composer.
“The first time I learned and performed a work by Liszt was during my freshman year in college,” Hershberger said. “I absolutely fell in love with his music and have been an advocate since then.”
Hershberger joined the American Liszt Society board of directors in 1997. In 2014, Hershberger became president of the Society. According to its website, the mission of the American Liszt Society is to “promote scholarship and general understanding of the full creative and historical significance of Franz Liszt on the education and development of both the composition and performance of music throughout the Western world.”
In the podcast episode, which was published May 15, Hershberger illustrates how Liszt’s Catholic faith shaped his compositions. He describes how Liszt gravitated toward certain keys with religious affectations and how he spent the latter part of his life dedicated to teaching and raising money for schools and churches across Europe.
“Liszt is probably the central figure of 19th-century Western classical music,” Hershberger said. “His music, his advocacy for other composers’ music, generosity with his students, philanthropic endeavors on behalf of a myriad of noble and worthy causes, and his influence on piano playing into the 20th century are all still relevant today.”
“Sacred Notes” is hosted by Peter Carter, the director of sacred music at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Allentown, N.J., and Dr. Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka, an associate professor and the director of sacred music at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) in New York.