My first exposure to Charles Rosen’s probing intelligence and erudition was in the mid-70s, when I read in one sitting The Classical Style, his clearly written and example-heavy exposition of the evolution of the sonata form from Mozart and Haydn to Beethoven. Since then I’ve turned to the tome whenever I’ve sought insight into the workings of these like-minded masters and their cultural milieus. My introduction to Rosen the pianist was around the same time. A child prodigy, he enrolled at the Juilliard when he was six; five years later he left to study privately with Moriz Rosenthal, a pupil of Liszt. In 1951, at age 24, Rosen not only made an impressive debut in New York but also completed doctoral work in French literature at Princeton. Catholic in taste though a 19th-century Romantic at heart, Rosen commands a wide-ranging repertoire that embraces Scarlatti and Schoenberg alike and is studded with some of the most challenging contemporary compositions, a number written especially for him. Though always a poised, precise, and sensitive interpreter and certainly a superb technician, Rosen doesn’t quite measure up to, say, the fiercely intellectual Maurizio Pollini or the intuitive Daniel Barenboim. Even his approach to the key Romantics–the subject of his exhaustive, indispensable new study, The Romantic Generation–can be a bit too reticent, in the manner of a scholar at once entranced and intimidated by passion. A busy and beloved professor for more than four decades–the last of which was spent at the University of Chicago–Rosen retired last month. As part of a week of public farewells, he’s performing in two concerts at the University of Chicago this weekend. His solo recital Friday pays tribute to Beethoven (Sonata no. 31), Schumann (Fantasy in C major, in its original score), and Chopin (an assortment of barcaroles and mazurkas). Rosen teams up Saturday with the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Barbara Schubert’s direction for Brahms’s Concerto no. 1. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter Schaaf.