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Music and Sentiment [Hardcover]

Charles Rosen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

June 29 2010

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.


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"Excellent. . . convincing. . . written in a highly-accessible style that will appeal to specialist and generalist alike."—Mark Sealey, Classical Net
(Mark Sealey Classical Net)

"A marvellous text—a civilized, provocative and delightful extended essay [in which] Rosen points the reader in the direction of old friends, musically speaking, and finds new things to say about them, all without a shred of unnecessary jargon."—Nigel Simeone, University of Sheffield
(Nigel Simeone)

"There are not many musicians who can convey the essence of music in an exciting way, and even fewer can support their opinions with knowledge of the practical, theoretical, and historical aspects of music. Charles Rosen is one of the few examples of the 'Renaissance Man' in musical matters, eminent not only as pianist but also as author and music critic. . . . He brings convincing arguments and through his immense knowledge he has no trouble finding interesting contradictions to commonly held views."—American Record Guide
(American Record Guide)

About the Author

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

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sentiment and Rationality Aug. 25 2010
By Bernie Koenig TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Art Matters: The Art of Knowledge/The Knowledge of Art
Natural Law, Science, and the Social Construction of Reality

I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Rosen perform when I was in music school in New York back in the 60s. he performed in the world premier of Eliot Carter's Double Concerto. I also have his recording.

Rosen is not only a great musician but a great explainer of music. In this short book he explains how composers use musical techniques to convey sentiment. The techniques used differ in in different historical periods.

Music a language, but not a specific one. It is short on semantics but big on syntax and grammar. This means that music cannot express a specific thought but, through musical structures, can express general ones.

Composers use thematic development, dissonances, slurs and harmonic techniques to convey feelings. Rosen demonstrates how composers do this.

It helps if one can read music since Rosen includes numerous examples in the text. But it would be just as satisfying to listen to the music Rosen discusses while reading his explanations of how the composers use the techniques of composition to create the desired effects on the listener.

A very readable work which I can't wait to read again with the music on.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new here Aug. 13 2010
By a customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After having read and reread Rosen's "The Classical Style" and "The Romantic Generation" many times, I had very high hopes for this new book. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.

First of all, it is much too short. At only 141 pages, Rosen simply does not have space to discuss his subject in much depth. Secondly, there is little that is new in this book. Many of the musical examples he discusses in this book are analyzed much more thoroughly and satisfyingly in his earlier works, and many of his insights into how the expression of emotion through music has changed over the centuries can also be found in a more fleshed out form in his other books. The proportions of the book also reveal that Rosen is mostly writing about music that he has already written a lot about: one chapter on Baroque music, three chapters on Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven (the composers most discussed in "The Classical Style" and "Sonata Forms"), one chapter on the early Romantics (Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann, half of the composers discussed in "The Romantic Generation"), and one chapter on everything after them.

I also find that this book is simply not as well written as his others. While some may prefer Rosen's less dense and formal style in this book, I think that some of the rigor that is so key to his insights is lost. The book is also filled with contradictions and arguments with other music scholars over technical details. While such elements are not always bad provided that they are a source of insight, I did not find them to be so in this book. I suspect these problems may arise from the fact that this book was created from a series of lectures given by Rosen at the University of Indiana at Bloomington. While these chapters were probably wonderful lectures for the university students, I don't think they come together to make a convincing book.

Most disappointing, though, is the fact that he doesn't even write that much about emotion in music. Mostly, this book is an analysis in the way localized phrase structures evolved from the baroque through the early romantic period. In general, Rosen discusses only snippets of music, and refuses to address how large scale form contributes to the emotional impact of music. For me, much of the power of classical music comes from the way it can take me on a journey through many different emotions and thus create a sense of narrative drama. A refusal to discuss how different parts of a piece combine to create this sense of narrative is to me a refusal to discuss perhaps the most important way composers communicate emotions through music.

Charles Rosen's "The Classical Style" and "The Romantic Generation" are the best books on music that I have ever read, and I urge any lover of classical music who has not read them to do so. This one, however, you can skip.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For the specialist Oct. 11 2010
By Robert Ginsberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am inclined to agree overall with the previous reviewer (A customer). I too revere Charles Rosen's books and his essays on music (mostly in the NYRB), but this book is a disappointment in that it does not really address its topic. Rosen explicitly rejects the idea that any musical device or effect can be said to have a specific nonmusical connotation, but he does not then go on to explain how music does affect the emotions. Or, to be fair, he shows how music does create effects (through structure, key relationships, musical motifs, harmonic texture, etc.) but he almost never says what the effect is. Toward the end (p. 133) he says, in a parenthesis "It is obvious, for example, that the similar slow movements of Beethoven's op. 10. no. 3 and op. 106 both represent grief and despair, and both are a Largo in 6/8, but the emotion is so different in the two cases that characterizing it amounts simply to giving a detailed description of a performance of each." But I do think that the difference between the two slow movements is precisely what the potential reader of this book would like to have explicated, and the book offers no help. One last point: the discussion is, as always with Rosen, fairly technical, and an understanding of musical notation and familiarity with the mechanics of tonal music and the technical vocabulary of musical analysis are helpful. For anyone who does have that background, this book will be informative and interesting, even if it doesn't fulfill the promise in its title.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book in Great condition Feb. 18 2013
By J. Nellos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Prompt delivery and book in great condition as described. Given as a gift and cannot say if she has enjoyed the book. Thank you
10 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly great book July 15 2010
By dreamer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author raises an issue not discussed much earlier. The analysis and reasoning succeed in a brilliant way to a greater appreciation of music. Not a single line is uninteresting. Highly recommended!
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