Joseph Kerman's earlier book Opera as Drama managed to combine critical depths with scrupulous scholarship, as well as a clear style; and to all these virtues, his new book, The Beethoven Quartets, adds insightful biographical dimensions. Using as its format a history of the string quartets, which he divides into three sections, Kerman's commentary works both into Beethoven's life and into the music, continually showing how much musical genius is sheer technical moxie. In this respect, Kerman is particularly shrewd at sketching Beethoven's development of his art as well as his departures from traditional practice. As a historian, Kerman traces the history of the musical reputation of each phase of the quartets; and as a scholar-critic, he judges that no other genre illustrates Beethoven's range so fully. Although the book requires considerable musical sophistication for thorough understanding, the musically less literate reader could skip the analytical passages and still find the book profitable. In addition, as scholarship, it is undoubtedly definitive.