Charles Rosen, 1927-2012

January 3, 2013

A world-renowned pianist, musicologist and polymathic writer on cultural themes has died.

Charles Rosen was born in New York on 5 May 19 and lived to the end of his life in the apartment he moved into at the age of six. He studied French up to master's level at Princeton University and then took a position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the same time, however, he was developing his skills as a pianist, an instrument he began to learn at the age of four.

In 1951, Professor Rosen gave his concert debut, recorded his first album of Debussy's Études, and decided to abandon his academic post for a career as a full-time performer. He went on to produce definitive recordings of composers from Bach to Beethoven while also collaborating over many years with contemporaries such as Pierre Boulez and Elliott Carter.

A decision to start writing the programme notes for his own concerts marked the first step in Professor Rosen's distinguished writing career. His books range from acclaimed historical surveys such as The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (1971) and The Romantic Generation (1995) to more personal accounts such as Piano Notes: The Hidden World of the Pianist (2002). Despite his encyclopedic knowledge, Professor Rosen always responded to music as an enthusiast rather than in the forbidding style of the specialist.

"Understanding music in the most basic sense simply means enjoying it when you hear it," he argued in the introduction to Music and Sentiment (2010). "It is rare that specialized knowledge is required for the spontaneous enjoyment that is the reason for the existence of music."

Wide-ranging in his interests, Professor Rosen also wrote on many other topics, notably as a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books.

His book Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen (1998) includes a chapter on the cookery writer Elizabeth David, while Freedom and the Arts: Essays on Music and Literature (2012) ranges widely across the poetry of several languages.

His writing also led to him back into the academy, with a series of appointments at the universities of Berkeley, Harvard and Oxford, although he had longer-term links with the State University of New York at Stony Brook and ended his life as emeritus professor of music and social thought at the University of Chicago.

"I need to practise about four hours a day," Professor Rosen once explained, "but that always left time for academic work."

He died of cancer on 9 December and had no close surviving relatives.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Library Systems Manager YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY
Chair in Law UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL (MAIN OFFICE)
User Acceptance Testing Technician CAMBRIDGE ASSESSMENT

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Globalisation

Times Higher Education World University Rankings data reveal the top 200 most outward-looking institutions

Common cactus finch (Geospiza scandens)

Tiffany Taylor on a thought-provoking view of the forces acting to ensure survival

Stressed businessman answering four telephones

Some surveys show faculty putting in at least 60 hours a week, but research casts doubt on whether this is a productive routine

Student asking question during class

University of Reading research finds link between undergraduate satisfaction and ethnicity of lecturers

Level of quality compass

Authors argue this means universities should spend less on senior academics and give promising younger scholars more of a chance