Music and Sentiment Charles Rosen

Publication date:
18 May 2010
160 pages: 216 x 138 x 19mm
music examples throughout


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How does a work of music stir the senses, creating feelings of joy, sadness, elation, or nostalgia? Though sentiment and emotion play a vital role in the composition, performance, and appreciation of music, rarely have these elements been fully observed. In this succinct and penetrating book, Charles Rosen draws upon more than a half century as a performer and critic to reveal how composers from Bach to Berg have used sound to represent and communicate emotion in mystifyingly beautiful ways. Through a range of musical examples, Rosen details the array of stylistic devices and techniques used to represent or convey sentiment. This is not, however, a listener's guide to any "correct" response to a particular piece. Instead, Rosen provides the tools and terms with which to appreciate this central aspect of musical aesthetics, and indeed explores the phenomenon of contradictory sentiments embodied in a single motif or melody. Taking examples from Chopin, Schumann, Wagner, and Liszt, he traces the use of radically changing intensities in the Romantic works of the nineteenth century and devotes an entire chapter to the key of C minor. He identifies a "unity of sentiment" in Baroque music and goes on to contrast it with the "obsessive sentiments" of later composers including Puccini, Strauss, and Stravinsky. A profound and moving work, Music and Sentiment is an invitation to a greater appreciation of the crafts of composition and performance.

Charles Rosen is an internationally renowned writer and pianist. His numerous books include Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, published by Yale University Press.

'This book is definitely worth reading, and taking to heart.'
-Brian Morton, The Tablet

'Rosen offers a compelling examination of the “power” that the great composers have exerted on our sensibilities.'
-New Statesman

‘Rosen is among the most consistently enlightening of writers…In this stimulating, thoroughly recommendable book, including dozens of music examples, Rosen once again enriches our understanding of music.’
-Philip Borg-Wheeler, Classical Music

‘It is refreshing to see a musical thinker of Charles Rosen’s quality tackling a topic once considered almost irrelevant to serious analytical study.’
-Julian Haylock, International Piano

‘Rosen continuously reveals and explains the fantastic, largely unglimpsed, subtlety of music’s expressive vocabulary…This book could be a revelation even to the musically illiterate.’
-Jeremy Siepmann, BBC Music Magazine

‘These lectures, bristling with musical examples and detailed analysis, tackle the tricky question of how music expresses emotion.’
-Adam Lively, Sunday Times