Charles Rosen (born May 5, 1927) is an American pianist and music theorist.
Charles Rosen studied piano with Moriz Rosenthal, but in an interview published in the June 2007 edition of BBC Music Magazine, he cites Josef Hofmann, whom he says he heard every year from age three, as a greater influence. Rosen recalls having played for Leopold Godowsky at age seven; Godowsky asked Rosen what he would like to be when he grew up, and, to Godowsky's amusement, Rosen answered, "I want to be a pianist like Josef Hofmann." Rosen also names Arturo Toscanini as a great influence, particularly because of his concern with the continuity of inner voices.
As a virtuoso pianist Rosen has appeared in numerous recitals and orchestral engagements around the world. Although, in the interview, he claims to have little interest in performing music of Scriabin, Fauré, and similar very late tonal composers, he has recorded a number of 20th century works at the invitation of their composers, including works by Igor Stravinsky, Elliott Carter, and Pierre Boulez. His recordings also include earlier literature such as Debussy's Études, Beethoven's late sonatas and Diabelli Variations, and Bach's Art of Fugue; in the interview, Rosen notes that he refuses to perform the last-named work complete in concert, expressing a belief that it was intended for home study and cannot be played as Bach would have intended except in solitude, for personal pleasure.
Rosen is also a musicologist and is the author of many distinguished books about music. Perhaps his most famous work is The Classical Style, which analyzes the nature and evolution of the high classical style as it was developed by Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Sonata Forms is in some ways a follow-up on The Classical Style; it is an intensive analysis of the primary musical form used in the classical era. The Romantic Generation covers the work of the early generation of Romantic composers, including Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn.
The polymathic Rosen has also published in other areas of the humanities: Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of Nineteenth-Century Art and Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen.
Rosen has from time to time held positions as a university professor. He holds a Ph.D. in French Literature from Princeton University and has taught at Harvard, Oxford University, and the University of Chicago.
He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.