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With a much surer satiric hand than in his first novel (a broadly sketched farce about law school--The Socratic Method, 1987), Levin turns to the world of classical music for this light and always enjoyable comedy that's clearly grounded in rumor and lore about real-life performers. If nothing else, Levin's fictional account of the New York Symphony suggests that the way to get to Carnegie Hall isn't always practice, practice, practice. In fact, his breezy tale of backbiting and petty jealousy among the musical cognoscenti implies that even this rarefied world is subject to the most crass kinds of hype. A group of former classmates at the Manhattan Conservatory are drawn together by a spectacular event--one of their number, the former prodigy Donald Bright, who's now the frustrated director of the Symphony's Chorus, has discovered a rare Mozart Mass in Vienna. But music-world politics prevent him from conducting the piece's Carnegie premiere. Instead, classmate Andrew Barnes, the affable, handsome, and not very talented conductor of a British orchestra, is invited to do the honors, partly out of spite--the Symphony's management loathes Bright--and partly because Barnes' overbearing wife, also a former Manhattan Conservatory student, connives on behalf of her unsuspecting husband. Other classmates come into the picture as well: Kevin Riordan, now an assistant manager of the Hall, must attend to Barnes' security since he's been threatened by Middle Eastern groups for a series of benefits he conducted in London; Corinne Gates, a member of Bright's Chorus, was Barnes' fianc‚e before the ambitious Elizabeth Garrett-Jones lured the likable sap away. When one of Bright's loyal colleagues exploits Barnes' political troubles, all hell breaks loose, and it seems the truly deserving Bright will have to take up the baton himself. Levin's fiction proves as good-natured as Barnes himself when everything turns out nicely in the end. A well-orchestrated work indeed.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster