Charles Rosen, 85, the renowned pianist and prolific writer whose award-winning book The Classical Style has been read by music students around the world, died Sunday at a New York hospital after a battle with cancer.

In his long career, Mr. Rosen combined a concert pianist's virtuosity with a well-rounded cultural erudition that made him a sometimes feared presence in New York's intellectual circles.

His strong affinity for contemporary music brought him into close collaboration with a number of notable 20th-century composers, especially Elliott Carter, who died in November.

"He considered himself a pianist first and foremost," said Henri Zerner, a friend and colleague. But he became equally if not more famous for his writing, which covered the vast history of classical music.

His many honors include the National Book Award in 1972 for The Classical Style. The tome, which focuses on the music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, is considered essential reading for classical-music scholars.

In February, he received a National Humanities Medal from President Obama at the White House. - Los Angeles Times