Lovers of chamber music and especially of the Shostakovich quartets will give Dubinsky's memoir of the chamber music scene in postwar Russia stormy applause. He is a spirited and amusing writer about the most ratified musical matters. This is nothing if not an education in how to listen to chamber music, or in how to grasp the intent of the players and, with luck, the composer. What is clear from first-violinist Dubinsky's description of performances by his own Borodin Quartet, founded by him in the late 40's, is that a quartet work is never the same twice, that it is a supple, living organism that breathes with the daily lives of its players. Dubinsky's tale is one of living death under the Communist Party and of innocents abroad as the rising Borodin Quartet is sent out to Eastern bloc countries and at last to the West as a symbol of musical art in the Soviet Union. The tone is both Helleresque in the Catch-22s of bureaucracy and very funny, much like Iranoff, Buljanoff, and Kopalski being sent to Paris in Ninotchka. Dubinsky never fears farce in showing us the quarter's inner agonies, the terrifying spiritual blinkers applied by the quartet's two Party members, Berlinsky and Alexandrov, in lording it over non-Party members Dubinsky and Shebalin (and Shebalin secretly has been appointed as the group's informer while abroad!). And yet the group must harmonize or their music will not breathe. Often they play socialist "masterpieces"--"making candy from a piece of shit." But the book's most wrenching moments are about the abyssal agonies of Dmitri Shostakovich, who twice suffers civil execution, lives daily under the threat of immediate death, and hides out spiritually in his quartets while composing public symphonies; the death of violinist David Oistrakh (for whom the Borodins play a Shostakovich quartet on his deathbed); the friendship of Rostropovich; the Borodins playing for three sleepless days and nights over Stalin's bier. Superb. And let the Western reader count his blessings.