Music: A Sacred Madness

The first symptom is a slight trembling of the shoulders. Then comes a weakness in the legs, then a sweating of the palms. Chills, fever, even nausea sometimes follow. Some victims regularly employ mild doses of alcohol for temporary relief. The more imaginative resort to yoga and hypnosis. Whatever the antidote, the common malady known as stage fright is accepted far and wide as a natural part of the performing experience.

It need not be, says Pianist Charles Rosen, a sometime author who won a National Book Award earlier this year for The Classical Style. In the current issue of the literary...

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