Charles Rosen is a rare genius in an age of specialization. A concert pianist who studied with one of Liszt's pupils, he has performed to acclaim throughout the world, and he has recorded the major works of the piano repertoire from Bach to Schoenberg. But he is equally renowned for his scholarly work on Classical and early Romantic musical styles, as well as on the twentieth-century styles of Schoenberg and Elliott Carter. In addition, he has written convincingly as a critic and scholar on literature and art.
Rosen's scholarly books have become standards in the field. The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (1971, expanded ed 1997) received the National Book Award for Arts and Letters in 1972. In it, he eloquently and effectively explained what was at stake in Haydn's development and Mozart's and Beethoven's expansion of the Classical styles as a set of artistic principles. At that time, the concept of style was in disrepute as implying a collection or taxonomy of surface features. Rosen not only deepened our conception of style as a regulative frame for artistic creation, but he also argued that the Classical style was an artistic achievement best generalized from the works of its creators and masters, not from the mass of lesser composers. The book's extraordinary scope and depth of musical insight had a major impact, serving to advance a new paradigm of criticism in which questions of style change and musical meaning could more effectively be addressed.
Other books soon followed. Arnold Schoenberg (1975) won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 1976, and Sonata Forms (1980, rev. ed 1988) won again in 1981. The Romantic Generation (1995) received the Otto Kinkeldey Award (the highest award for a book) from the American Musicological Society in 1996, and Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen (1998) won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.
A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books (from which the essays in Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen were drawn), Rosen's critical voice is respected by intellectuals throughout the arts and humanities, and admired by all who have an interest in music as profoundly expressive and meaningful. With art historian Henri Zerner he wrote Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of Nineteenth Century Art (1984). His knowledge of literature is equally exhaustive; indeed, his doctorate at Princeton was in French Medieval literature.
Charles Rosen delivered the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University on Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz, and Mendelssohn. Revised and expanded, they appeared to glowing reviews in The Romantic Generation (1995), which includes a 75-minute CD of his brilliantly illustrative performances. Recently, Rosen has focused on sharing his insights as a performer, with Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion (2002) and Piano Notes: The hidden World of the Pianist (also 2002).
Rosen's current concert schedule includes major programs of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, and he is frequently invited to lecture at venues ranging from the prestigious Mannes Institute on Musical Form in New York City to the Eighth International Congress on Musical Signification in Paris.
Rosen's Patten lectures, a two-part series on the representation of sentiment in music, will be enhanced by a special Patten event at 8:00 pm, Wednesday, January 18, (no tickets required), featuring a performance of the last three Beethoven piano sonatas, Op. 109-111.