Charles Rosen is an American pianist and music theorist. He has carried out a double career. As a virtuoso pianist he has appeared in numerous recitals and orchestral engagements around the world, and has recorded a number of 20th century works at the invitation of their composers, including works by Igor Stravinsky, Elliott Carter, and Pierre Boulez. He is also the author of many widely admired books about music.
Charles Rosen started young, with piano lessons at the age of four, then studied at the Juilliard School from ages seven to eleven. For the next six years he was a pupil of Moriz Rosenthal (who in turn had been a pupil of Rafael Joseffy and Franz Liszt). When Rosenthal died in 1946, Rosen continued studying with his widow, Hedwig Kanner-Rosenthal, for a total of eight years. He also studied music theory and composition with Karl Weigl, and at Princeton University majored in music history and romance languages. He received his B.A. summa cum laude in 1947; his M.A, in 1949, and his Ph.D. in 1951 - the year he made his New York piano debut. In addition to concertizing, Rosen taught Modern Languages at M.I.T. (1953-1955), returning to academe in 1971 as Professor of Music at SUNY in Stony Brook. In 1976-1977 he served as Ernest Bloch Professor of Music at U.C. Berkeley; held the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Chair at Harvard in 1980-81; was George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford in 1988, and from 1986 until his retirement in 1996, was Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and Music at the University of Chicago.
In three farewell concerts there on successive nights he played Elliott Carter's Night Fantasies (as a guest of the Contemporary Chamber Players); a solo program of L.v. Beethoven (Op. 110 Sonata), Schumann (the original manuscript version of Fantasie in C), and Chopin (one of whose pupils had been the first teacher of Rosen's own beloved teacher, Moriz Rosenthal); and finally the Johannes Brahms First Piano Concerto with the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Three years later in London he broadcast "Rosen on Chopin," a series of programs on BBC Radio 3 commemorating the sesquicentennial of the composer's death.
Concurrently with concertizing, he recorded for Columbia/CBS Masterworks - J.S. Bach's Art of the Fugue (BWV 1080), original editions of music by Schumann and Chopin, the F. Liszt First Piano Concerto (to the surprise of many unaware of his pedagogical heritage), L.v. Beethoven's last six sonatas (Opp. 90-111) and "Diabelli" Variations. He also recorded the complete solo piano music of Pierre Boulez, I. Stravinsky's Movements for Piano and Orchestra at the composer's request (with the composer conducting), and a CD of Elliott Carter's piano music: Night Fantasies, the Piano Sonata, and 90+ (composed in 1996). He also recorded Anton Webern's Op. 7 Violin Pieces with the late Isaac Stern.
Pianism and pedagogy were not Rosen's only areas of concentration, however. In 1971 he published the provocative first edition of The Classical Style, reprinted in five languages, and revised in 1997 with an additional chapter. This was marketed with a CD of the author playing L.v. Beethoven's Opp. 106 and 110 sonatas. In 1995 he brought forth The Romantic Generation, which included a spirited and eloquent defense of Berlioz, and in 2000 published a selection of essays as Critical Entertainments. Among 20th century artists he has been an intellectual of the first order - perhaps the most authentic of all - not excluding Alfred Brendel or Maurizio Pollini. If Rosen's piano tone has not always been ingratiating or his style unbending, at his best he illuminates the keyboard music of Western history's most "serious" composers - from J.S. Bach to I. Stravinsky, Carter and Pierre Boulez, by way of Haydn, Mozart, L.v. Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann, F. Liszt, and J. Brahms. Nothing in his art has ever been trivial. As a performer, educator, and writer in one package, Charles Rosen is likely always to be recognized as unique.
Arnold Schoenberg (1996. Chicago: University of Chicago Press): ISBN 0691027064
Beethoven's Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion (2001, New Haven: Yale University Press): ISBN 0300090706
The Classical Style (2nd ed., 1997, New York: Norton): ISBN 0393317129
Critical Entertainments: Music Old and New (2001. Cambridge: Harvard University Press): ISBN 0674006844
The Frontiers of Meaning: Three Informal Lectures on Music (1994. New York: Hill and Wang): ISBN 187108265X
The Musical Languages of Elliott Carter (1984. Washington, D.C.: Music Division, Research Services, Library of Congress)
Piano Notes: The World of the Pianist (2002: Free Press): ISBN 0743243129
Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of Nineteenth-Century Art (with Henri Zerner; 1985. New York: Norton): ISBN 0393301966
Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen (2000. Cambridge: Harvard University Press): ISBN 0674779517
The Romantic Generation (1998, Cambridge: Harvard University Press): ISBN 0674779347
Sonata Forms (2nd ed., 1988, New York: Norton): ISBN 0393302199