Elaine Rochelle Sisman (born January 20, 1952) is the Anne Parsons Bender Professor of Music at Columbia University, where she has taught since 1982. The author of Haydn and the Classical Variation, Mozart: The 'Jupiter' Symphony, and editor of Haydn and His World, she specializes in music, rhetoric, and aesthetics of the 18th and 19th centuries, and has written on such topics as memory and invention in late Beethoven, ideas of pathétique and fantasia around 1800, Haydn's theater symphonies, the sublime in Mozart's music, and Brahms's slow movements. Her monograph-length article on "variations" appears in the revised New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and she is at work on studies of music and melancholy, of Don Giovanni, and of the opus-concept in the eighteenth century.
Sisman has taught at the University of Michigan and Harvard University, as well as Columbia University where she currently teaches. She serves on the board of directors of the Joseph Haydn-Institut in Cologne, the Akademie für Mozartforschung in Salzburg, and the American Brahms Society, and is an editor of Beethoven Forum and associate editor of The Musical Quarterly and 19th-Century Music. She was President of the American Musicological Society in 2005–06.
Sisman studied piano at the Juilliard pre-college division. She graduated from Cornell University in 1972, studying with Malcolm Bilson and received her doctorate in music history at Princeton University in 1978.
Sisman has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. She received the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society for best article by a younger scholar. Columbia has honored her with its Great Teacher Award in 1992 and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum in 2000. In 2014 Sisman was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Sisman's work has been highly regarded almost universally. Eugene K. Wolf of the University of Pennsylvania had these flattering remarks for one of Sisman's works: "By far the most extensive, intelligent, and original treatment of the concept and technique of variation yet produced. Sisman employs a wide range of approaches, from classical and neoclassical rhetorical theory and the most recent techniques of literary analysis to sophisticated modern methods of dealing with the music itself." One review claims, "Elaine Sisman's excellent book will be a major inspiration for younger scholars and for the vast majority of readers in and outside English-speaking countries." Widely recognized for her eloquence and the passion she possesses for the music she studies, Sisman has become a premiere voice on classical music.
Works by Sisman
- Haydn and His World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997)
- Mozart: The "Jupiter" Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551 (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1993)
- Haydn and the Classical Variation (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1993)
- "After the Heroic Style: Fantasia and Beethoven's 'Characteristic' Sonatas of 1809," Beethoven Forum 6 (1997)
- "Genre, Gesture, and Meaning in Mozart's 'Prague Symphony,'" in Mozart Studies 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)
- "Pathos and Path?ique: Rhetorical Stance in Beethoven's Piano Sonata in C minor, Op.13," Beethoven Forum 3 (1994)
- "Brahms and the Variation Canon," 19th-Century Music 14 (1990), 132-53
- "Haydn's Theater Symphonies," Journal of the American Musicological Society 43 (1990)
- "Small and Expanded Forms: Koch's Model and Haydn's Music," The Musical Quarterly 68 (1982)