Beethoven's Piano Sonatas A Short Companion Charles Rosen

Publication date:
23 Jun 2020
Yale University Press
272 pages: 235 x 156mm
Illustrated throughout with music examples

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Beethoven’s piano sonatas form one of the most important collections of works in the whole history of music. Spanning several decades of his life as a composer, the sonatas soon came to be seen as the first body of substantial serious works for piano suited to performance in large concert halls seating hundreds of people.

In this comprehensive and authoritative guide, Charles Rosen places the works in context and provides an understanding of the formal principles involved in interpreting and performing this unique repertoire, covering such aspects as sonata form, phrasing, and tempo, as well as the use of pedal and trills. In the second part of his book, he looks at the sonatas individually, from the earliest works of the 1790s through the sonatas of Beethoven’s youthful popularity of the early 1800s, the subsequent years of mastery, the years of stress (1812–1817), and the last three sonatas of the 1820s.

Composed as much for private music-making as public recital, Beethoven’s sonatas have long formed a bridge between the worlds of the salon and the concert hall. For today’s audience, Rosen has written a guide that brings out the gravity, passion, and humor of these works and will enrich the appreciation of a wide range of readers, whether listeners, amateur musicians, or professional pianists.
The book includes a link to recordings of Rosen performing extracts from several of the sonatas, illustrating points made in the text.

More about this title

Charles Rosen (1927–2012) was an internationally respected pianist. A pupil of Moriz Rosenthal, he has performed and recorded a wide repertoire from Bach to Pierre Boulez. His prize-winning books include The Classical Style, The Romantic Generation, Romantic Poets, Critics and Other Madmen, and Critical Entertainments.

"Pianists . . . will have much to gain from Rosen’s admirably wide range of musical reference, and his usual rich mixture of musical wisdom and opinion, both eminently worth having."—Leon Plantinga, Times Literary Supplement

"In this sparkling ‘short companion,’ Rosen guides the listener through both musical structures and knotty performance decisions. . . . A CD on which Rosen himself plays completes a gorgeous package."—The Guardian

"[R]ich in detail . . . graceful and embracing. All admirers of this repertory will gain much from this book. Highly recommended . . ."—Library Journal

"[An] outstanding work: a performer’s guide to Beethoven’s piano sonatas. . . . The text is rich in detail, and Rosen’s prose is typically graceful and embracing. All admirers of this repertory will gain much from this book. Highly recommended for all collections."—Library Journal (starred review)

"There is scarcely an observation from first page to last that doesn’t prompt the most fruitful reflection on the very essence of interpretation at every level. If you buy only one book on music this year, let it be this one."—Bettina Neumann, Piano

"For someone seeking to understand the evolution and reception of the sonatas as a cultural and musical narrative, Rosen’s book will furnish a more vivid and illuminating experience."—Charles Fisk, Notes

Related links

Discover the Musical Examples that accompany this book here.