Starer, a distinguished composer and author of a fetching memoir (Continuo: A Life in Music, 1987), makes a droopy fiction debut with this predictable tale of a gifted piano teacher's late- in-life bid for lasting romance and a new concert career. Bernard Winter, once a promising concert pianist, is now, in late middle age, a sought-after teacher who plays only occasionally in public, at low-profile events. The son of German-Jewish refugees (his father a Dachau survivor, his mother mentally ill), he had the talent, but not the temperament, for a big-time competitive career. His love-life has been active, but sporadic, since the long-ago collapse of his marriage to an ambitious opera singer. Then Lydia Harding arrives: lovely, timid, recently divorced, with a charming young son--and a great musical gift that no one (certainly not her parents or her domineering ex-husband) has ever fully appreciated. Her talent blossoms under Bernard's tutelage; they become friends, piano-playing companions, and, inevitably, lovers. Buoyant, they decide to try for a major career as a piano duo, building toward a New York debut at Weill Hall. But a harsh review exposes Lydia's fragility, and Bernard turns back to his only true love--music. Despite a few engaging anecdotes, some down-to-earth comments on the culture scene, and much musical erudition: a pallid novel- -bogged down by stilted dialogue, awkward flashbacks, and earnest yet superficial strivings for psychological insight.