A memoir from the first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, whose nearly 35 years of 100 annual concerts...


INDIVISIBLE BY FOUR: A String Quartet in Pursuit of Harmony

A memoir from the first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet, whose nearly 35 years of 100 annual concerts together--without any personnel changes--is, by industry standards, a small miracle. As though holding a conversation among successful chamber players who spend more time with each other than at home, narrator Steinhardt here cleaves to the musical and skirts the personal. He begins with his youthful ambitions as a soloist and his eventual seduction by ensemble playing, accomplished, almost predictably, by Beethoven's Opus 130 and Bartok's Second. When at 25 he formed a professional quartet with some slightly older summer festival friends, word spread quickly: All four had soloed at Carnegie Hall and performed concerti with the country's foremost orchestras. If Steinhardt's account is short on the details of their musical inventiveness--almost every admired performance is described as ""supple"" and/or ""organic""--still, his recall of a new initiate's excitement at finding his metier is enough to carry the book's early sections. As he points out, however, a touring musician's life is, aside from the two hours before the floodlights, much like a traveling salesman's, and so are his stories about indistinguishable airports, noisy hotel rooms, and unexpectedly good (or bad) food. Nevertheless, the insider's revelations--e.g., squabbling about tempi in the wings of a concert hall in between curtain calls--should hold the attention of even casual fans. So will his story of a career-threatening hand operation, and his stream-of-consciousness conclusion recreating a performance of Schubert's ""Death and the Maiden"" (as close as we civilians will get to being on stage ourselves). Though not a trained writer, Steinhardt should intrigue any serious music lover with his depictions of an instrumentalist's early ardor and later technical accomplishments.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0374527008

Page Count: 310

Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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