Beethoven's Piano Sonatas

A Short Companion

Charles Rosen

View Inside Price: $40.00

February 8, 2002
272 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
Illustrated throughout with music examples
ISBN: 9780300090703

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 CD of Rosen performing extracts from several of the sonatas, illustrating points made in the text.

Charles Rosen is 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.

Illustrated throughout with music examples; Includes free CD

"[An] indispensable book."—Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

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

"[W]ritten in clear, logical prose . . . with the sensibility that . . . perhaps only a performer brings to the challenge of interpretation."—Michael Kimmelman, New York Review of Books

"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

"[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)

"Rosen’s book is written in clear, logical prose, suited to serious readers with basic training in music theory. It is full of his familiar intelligence and attention to detail. . . . Despite evocative passages that the general reader can appreciate, this is a book by a pianist for other pianists, musicologists, and serious amateurs, about the tasks facing the player, and inevitably it casts light on Rosen’s own playing. . . . This book’s value has to do with the general common sense of its arguments combined with the sensibility that a performer, and perhaps only a performer, brings to the challenge of interpretation. . . . However we ultimately decide to play and hear the Beethoven sonatas, Rosen’s excellent book at least compels us to think freshly about them."—Michael Kimmelman, New York Review of Books

"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

"[An] indispensable book."—Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

"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