Vikram Seth


Maggiore Dörtlüsü

Vikram Seth

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Edtörün Notu :
Türkiye'de "Maggiore Dörtlüsü" olarak yayımlanan kitap, İngilizcede "An Equal Music" adı altında yayımlanmıştı.  Yeterince Türkçe yorum bulamadığımız zaman sayfalarımızda İngilizce yorumlara da yer veriyoruz. 
Müzik otoritelerince "müzik üzerine yazılmış en iyi roman" olarak kabul edilen Vikram Seth'in "Maggiore Dörtlüsü" adlı eserinde Maggiore grubu  Beethoven'in çok az bilinen "Quintet" ini  çalma görevini  üstlenir. Viyana'nın büyülü müzik ortamında  Maggiore dörtlüsünün anıları, birbirleriyle ilişkileri, konsere hazırlanışları, müzik dünyasına içeriden bir bakışla okuyucuya aktarılır.

 

 

The Barnes & Noble Review

From Our Editors

Beginning with Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam and continuing through Richard Mason's highly touted debut, The Drowning People, and Salman Rushdie's heavily hyped The Ground Beneath Her Feet, several recent high-profile novels have extensively explored — with varying success — the rarefied world of music and musicians. The most recent of these books to be published in America — and to my mind, the finest of the lot — is Vikram Seth's deeply felt and keenly observed An Equal Music.

In his famous Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard in 1973 (and transcribed in The Unanswered Question), composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein sought to establish parallels between the language of music and the syntax of spoken language. In An Equal Music, Vikram Seth — the author of four volumes of poetry, as well as the verse novel The Golden Gate and the massive international bestseller A Suitable Boy — attempts the only slightly more modest goal of making accessible and compelling to the lay reader the lifelong immersion in and maintenance of craft that is the foundation of all serious music making. It's a considerable challenge, as one character only half-jokingly admits: "This morning...I suddenly realised how boring musicians are. All our friends are musicians and we aren't interested in anything except music." But in Seth's capable hands this blinkered one-track-mindedness becomes the novel's unifying thread. 

Narrator Michael Holme is a London-based musician who supplements his incomeassecond violinist for the up-and-coming Maggiore Quartet by teaching a singularly unpromising group of private students and by playing in a number of struggling chamber ensembles. Years before, as a protégé of the demanding Swedish maestro Carl Käll at the Musikhochschule in Vienna, Michael suffered a panic attack that sent him reeling from Vienna, his mentor, and most importantly, the woman he loved — pianist Julia McNicholl. By the time he recovered his equilibrium, Julia, too, had disappeared — leaving his letters unanswered, his phone calls unreturned. Ten years later, the memory of this lost love continues to haunt every romantic relationship he attempts — including his current passionless affair with Virginie, a French music student whose princess-pink apartment decor and discombobulated English are recorded by Seth in hilarious detail. Virginie unwittingly hastens her own obsolescence when she casually mentions the existence of a little-known Beethoven quintet, Op. 104, a late-career reworking of the Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3. It was this very trio that first brought Michael and Julia together in Vienna, this very trio that led to Michael's painful confrontation with Käll and subsequent breakdown. And it is Michael's quest for a score and a recording of this obscure quintet that will grant him a brief, tantalizing glimpse of Julia — reading a book on an adjacent bus, separated by two panes of glass and an unbridgeable gulf of less than five feet — before she disappears in the flow of London traffic.

If the knowledge that Julia is living maddeningly close sends Michael's hopes soaring like Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending, his agent — perhaps fearing an emotional relapse in the making — is more cautious. Michael's desperate optimism has an immediate effect on the intricate personal dynamics of his quartet as well.

 Many musicians — whether players in orchestras or freelancers — consider quartet players to be an odd, obsessed, introspective, separatist breed, perpetually traveling to exotic destinations and garnering adulation as if by right. If they knew the costs of that too-uncertain adulation, they would not resent us quite so much...it is our proximity to each other and only to each other which, more often than we recognise, constricts our priorities and makes us stranger than we are. Perhaps even our states of exaltation are akin to the dizziness that comes from lacking air.

So it is with the various members of the Maggiore. Piers, who "at the best of times, is never an easy person to be with," is a classic first violinist — abrasive, demanding, dismissive, and "used to getting his way." His sister, Helen, embodies the viola's supporting role, but where Piers is aloof, she uses her resolve to demand more involvement — better parts in music and in life. Billy, the group's cellist, is brilliant, selfless, eager to please, and expansive in gestures as well as in waistline. The quartet begins each rehearsal with a simple but effective ritual: the unison playing of a scale in the key of the piece to be rehearsed. It is no surprise then, that a group so musically attuned will also be ultrasensitive to variations in any member's emotional pitch.

Hard on the heels of their recent near miss, a second chance meeting at last brings Michael and Julia together following a Maggiore Quartet concert at London's Wigmore Hall. But dramatic as it is, their reunion plays second fiddle to Seth's lucid descriptions of the quartet's performance — particularly of the arresting encore, the first contrapunctus of Bach's Art of Fugue.

We play in an energised trance. These four-and-a-half minutes could be as many hours or seconds. In my mind's eye I see the little-used clefs of the original score, and the sinking and rising, swift and slow, parallel and contrary, of all our several voices — and in my mind's ear I hear what has sounded and is sounding and is yet to sound. I only have to realise on the strings what is already real to me; and so have Billy, and Helen, and Piers. Our synchronous visions merge, and we are one: with each other, with the world, and with the long-dispersed being whose force we receive through the shape of his annotated vision and the single swift-flowing syllable of his name. Married, with a nearly seven-year-old son, Julia nevertheless agrees to meet Michael again. And in the weeks to come, their rekindled passions take center stage in a flurry of furtive assignations, late-night faxes, letters, and curiously one-sided telephone messages. But their moments of happiness are dearly purchased. "I don't feel proud of these trysts," Julia confesses. "If someone else were doing what I am, I wouldn't know what to think of them." For his part, Michael can only wonder, "What's wrong with my conscience, that I can feel worried for her but not guilty?"

 Michael has almost reconciled himself to this continued deception when circumstances force Julia to reveal a devastating secret: As the result of autoimmune disease of the inner ear, she is nearly deaf. Lip reading, speech therapy, and a concealed hearing aid all help her to perform while disguising her condition, but her hearing gradually continues to fail. Worse, while Michael is out of town with his trio, Julia's agent proposes that she accompany the Maggiore in a performance of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet in Vienna, and Piers, unaware of her condition, accepts. Now Michael must chose whether to betray Julia's secret and her trust, or to honor his allegiance to the quartet.

Vikram Seth writes in his author's note, "Music to me is dearer even than speech" — a profession of utter devotion that resonates throughout An Equal Music . A musical amateur in the truest sense of the word, Seth has not only a thorough command of his subject; he incorporates his insights in such a way that they become integral to the novel — not some indigestible hash of horsehair, gut, and rosin served up in the name of verisimilitude. For Seth, music itself is its own truth. In the novel's final pages, Michael, emotionally battered by heartache and loss, ultimately finds comfort in the knowledge that music, "...such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness; why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music — not too much, or the soul could not sustain it — from time to time."

— barnesandnoble.com

Synopsis

The author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy returns with a powerful and deeply romantic tale of two gifted musicians. Michael Holme is a successful violinist, part of the famous Maggiore Quartet. He has long been haunted, though, by memories of the beautiful pianist he loved ten years earlier, Julia McNicholl. Then one day Julia comes back into his life: married now, with a small child and a devastating secret.

 The romance flares up once more, as Julia agrees to tour Vienna and Venice with Michael and the Quartet. Against the magical backdrop of concert halls and canals, Michael and Julia confront the truth about themselves, their love, and the music that both unites and divides them. A tour de force of romance and a superb picture of the international music scene, An Equal Music confirms Vikram Seth as one of the world's finest and most enticing writers.

From the Author:

Music to me is dearer than speech. When I realised that I would be writing about it I was gripped with anxiety. Only slowly did I reconcile myself to the thought of it. 

Friends and strangers have helped me in this work: string players, often those in quartets themselves who, because of their involvement with early music, have had to deal with the problems of variant tuning; pianists; other musicians, both players and composers; makers, repairers and sellers of instruments; those who aid or attempt to aid the creation or dissemination of music - teachers, critics, musicians' agents and managers; executives of record companies, managers of halls and festivals; those who know the places I have writen about better than myself - Londoners, Rochdalians, Venetians and Viennese; those who understand the world of the deaf - medically, like the many doctors who have advised me, or educationally in particular my lip-reading teacher an her class, of from personal experience of deafness.

 Many people talked to me about the world of these characters; a few about the characters themselves. A number of friends generously agreed to read the first draft of the manuscript - a task I can hardly bear to do, even for my own work. Others forgave me for disappearing in script, voice and person from their lives.

 At the cost of redundancy I would like most particularly to thank three musicians - a pianist, a percussionist and a string player - who helped me, in quite different ways, to go where imagination alone could not have taken me: to get some sense of what it might be like to live in the zones that lie at the intersection of the world of soundlessness with those of heard, of misheard, of half-heard and of imagined sound.

About the Author:

Vikram Seth's previous books include three poetry collections, a libretto, the travel memoir From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet, and two other novels, The Golden Gate (a novel in verse) and A Suitable Boy. Born in Calcutta, Seth has lived in China, California, England, and India.

From the Publisher

The author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy returns with a passionate and deeply romantic tale of two gifted musicians.

When an English quartet, the Maggiore, undertakes a challenging work of Beethoven's, violinist Michael Holme is overwhelmed by memories of mastering the piece as a student in Vienna. That's where he also met Julia McNicholl, a pianist whose beauty was as mesmerizing as her musical genius, and whom Michael loved with an intensity he never found again. Years later, Michael is living a life devoted to music, until one day he is riding a London bus, and there, on another bus, separated only by glass, sits Julia McNicholl.

Though the mutual passion flares anew, the love they shared in their younger days is now complicated by the secrets and silences that have been generated by the passing of years. Unable to resist the power of their shared history, however, Julia agrees to tour Vienna and Venice with Michael and the Maggiore Quartet. Against the magical backdrop of concert halls and canals, Michael and Julia must confront the truth about their love for one another, their love for the music that brought them together, and the true consequences for their tangled hearts.
 
 

An Equal Music shows Seth to be at the top of his form: It is a tour de force of poetic, impassioned writing, conjuring brilliantly the worlds of Beethoven and Bach, of Vienna, Venice, and London, of individual heartache and the familial bonds that tie a quartet. Interweaving themes of loss, longing, and the power of music, An Equal Music is a deeply affecting story about the strands of passion that run through all our lives, masterfullyconfirming Vikram Seth as one of the world's finest and most daring novelists.

Reading Group Guide

Read the Reading Group Guide

From the Critics
From Akash Kapur - Salon 

Who is Vikram Seth? Even with a career that has spanned two decades and spawned nine books, Seth remains something of a mystery. No two books of his have been alike. He is a poet, a novelist, a travel writer and even the author of a libretto. Unlike most writers of Indian origin, whose works are obsessed with the subcontinent, Seth seems at home anywhere in the world. The Golden Gate, the novel in verse that first brought him renown, was a witty and inventive story of Californian yuppiedom; A Suitable Boy, one of the longest novels ever written in English, is a sprawling, multigenerational tale of family, tradition and politics in post-independence India.

Now, five years after that epic effort, Seth has returned with something completely different again. Set in the exalted world of the European classical music circuit, An Equal Music is a sensitive, meticulous novel that has something of the delicacy of a haiku. Gone is the grand sweep of A Suitable Boy — Seth's new book is an intimate and internalized story of love and music.

 Michael Holme, the high-strung narrator, is a violinist in a London string quartet. He is in love with a ghost: It has been years since he has seen Julia McNicholl, a pianist with whom he fell in love while studying in Vienna. Then one day he sees her again, on a bus in London. She is married now, but their passion (for each other, and for each other's music) soon rekindles. Part of Seth's achievement lies in his weaving these dual passions into a complex and multifaceted relationship. There are many emotional twists and turns (which I won't ruin by giving away), and at its best the book is a gripping and profound meditation on love, music and the irrevocability of time ("the swift ellipses of the earth," in Seth's masterful formulation). Narrated in the present tense, in an insistent first person, this meditation is intensely personal; unlike anything Seth has previously written, the novel is distinguished by remarkable psychological portraiture.

The portraits, though, are not uniformly convincing. In the early pages and toward the end, the narrative sometimes falters on the very qualities that elsewhere distinguish it. The poetic language can seem oddly archaic ("What hath closed Helen's eyes?" Michael soliloquizes in one instance), and the intensity can descend into generic — even maudlin — expressions of romantic anguish. "My life had shelved towards desolation," Michael whines near the end of the book; "If I didn't love you, things would be quite a bit simpler," Julia says earlier.

 But these are just the perils of writing about art and love. "Making music and making love — it's a bit too easy an equation," Julia says at one point. It is certainly true that Seth has undertaken no mean task in trying to distill something original from a subject that is almost by definition generic and sentimental. "I'd be bored unless I wrote a book that in some sense was a challenge," he recently told an interviewer. It is to his great credit that despite the occasional lapses, he answers the challenge with a convincing and often beautiful story of passion.

From Caroline Moore - Literary Review Magazine 

This is a novel about music and love, but it is also about claustrophobia and depression.... But because it is described from the inside, through the eyes of one first-person narrator, it leaves the reader also feeling trapped, frustrated, and uncertain of his or her sympathies.

From Karl Miller - The New Republic 

The good news...is that it possesses more than one of the "classical" properties....structure, suspense, plausibility....and it could be considered richer in these properties than romances usually are. 

From Greg Marrs - barnesandnoble.com 

Beginning with Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam and continuing through Richard Mason's highly touted debut, The Drowning People, and Salman Rushdie's heavily hyped The Ground Beneath Her Feet, several recent high-profile novels have extensively explored — with varying success — the rarefied world of music and musicians. The most recent of these books to be published in America — and to my mind, the finest of the lot — is Vikram Seth's deeply felt and keenly observed An Equal Music.

In his famous Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard in 1973 (and transcribed in The Unanswered Question), composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein sought to establish parallels between the language of music and the syntax of spoken language. In An Equal Music, Vikram Seth — the author of four volumes of poetry, as well as the verse novel The Golden Gate and the massive international bestseller A Suitable Boy — attempts the only slightly more modest goal of making accessible and compelling to the lay reader the lifelong immersion in and maintenance of craft that is the foundation of all serious music making. It's a considerable challenge, as one character only half-jokingly admits: "This morning...I suddenly realised how boring musicians are. All our friends are musicians and we aren't interested in anything except music." But in Seth's capable hands this blinkered one-track-mindedness becomes the novel's unifying thread.

 Narrator Michael Holme is a London-based musician who supplements his income as second violinist for the up-and-coming Maggiore Quartet by teaching a singularly unpromising group of private students and by playing in a number of struggling chamber ensembles. Years before, as a protégé of the demanding Swedish maestro Carl Käll at the Musikhochschule in Vienna, Michael suffered a panic attack that sent him reeling from Vienna, his mentor, and most importantly, the woman he loved — pianist Julia McNicholl. By the time he recovered his equilibrium, Julia, too, had disappeared — leaving his letters unanswered, his phone calls unreturned. Ten years later, the memory of this lost love continues to haunt every romantic relationship he attempts — including his current passionless affair with Virginie, a French music student whose princess-pink apartment decor and discombobulated English are recorded by Seth in hilarious detail. Virginie unwittingly hastens her own obsolescence when she casually mentions the existence of a little-known Beethoven quintet, Op. 104, a late-career reworking of the Trio in C minor, Op. 1, No. 3. It was this very trio that first brought Michael and Julia together in Vienna, this very trio that led to Michael's painful confrontation with Käll and subsequent breakdown. And it is Michael's quest for a score and a recording of this obscure quintet that will grant him a brief, tantalizing glimpse of Julia — reading a book on an adjacent bus, separated by two panes of glass and an unbridgeable gulf of less than five feet — before she disappears in the flow of London traffic.

 If the knowledge that Julia is living maddeningly close sends Michael's hopes soaring like Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending, his agent — perhaps fearing an emotional relapse in the making — is more cautious. Michael's desperate optimism has an immediate effect on the intricate personal dynamics of his quartet as well.

 Many musicians — whether players in orchestras or freelancers — consider quartet players to be an odd, obsessed, introspective, separatist breed, perpetually traveling to exotic destinations and garnering adulation as if by right. If they knew the costs of that too-uncertain adulation, they would not resent us quite so much...it is our proximity to each other and only to each other which, more often than we recognise, constricts our priorities and makes us stranger than we are. Perhaps even our states of exaltation are akin to the dizziness that comes from lacking air.

 So it is with the various members of the Maggiore. Piers, who "at the best of times, is never an easy person to be with," is a classic first violinist — abrasive, demanding, dismissive, and "used to getting his way." His sister, Helen, embodies the viola's supporting role, but where Piers is aloof, she uses her resolve to demand more involvement — better parts in music and in life. Billy, the group's cellist, is brilliant, selfless, eager to please, and expansive in gestures as well as in waistline. The quartet begins each rehearsal with a simple but effective ritual: the unison playing of a scale in the key of the piece to be rehearsed. It is no surprise then, that a group so musically attuned will also be ultrasensitive to variations in any member's emotional pitch.

Hard on the heels of their recent near miss, a second chance meeting at last brings Michael and Julia together following a Maggiore Quartet concert at London's Wigmore Hall. But dramatic as it is, their reunion plays second fiddle to Seth's lucid descriptions of the quartet's performance — particularly of the arresting encore, the first contrapunctus of Bach's Art of Fugue.

We play in an energised trance. These four-and-a-half minutes could be as many hours or seconds. In my mind's eye I see the little-used clefs of the original score, and the sinking and rising, swift and slow, parallel and contrary, of all our several voices — and in my mind's ear I hear what has sounded and is sounding and is yet to sound. I only have to realise on the strings what is already real to me; and so have Billy, and Helen, and Piers. Our synchronous visions merge, and we are one: with each other, with the world, and with the long-dispersed being whose force we receive through the shape of his annotated vision and the single swift-flowing syllable of his name. Married, with a nearly seven-year-old son, Julia nevertheless agrees to meet Michael again. And in the weeks to come, their rekindled passions take center stage in a flurry of furtive assignations, late-night faxes, letters, and curiously one-sided telephone messages. But their moments of happiness are dearly purchased. "I don't feel proud of these trysts," Julia confesses. "If someone else were doing what I am, I wouldn't know what to think of them." For his part, Michael can only wonder, "What's wrong with my conscience, that I can feel worried for her but not guilty?"

Michael has almost reconciled himself to this continued deception when circumstances force Julia to reveal a devastating secret: As the result of autoimmune disease of the inner ear, she is nearly deaf. Lip reading, speech therapy, and a concealed hearing aid all help her to perform while disguising her condition, but her hearing gradually continues to fail. Worse, while Michael is out of town with his trio, Julia's agent proposes that she accompany the Maggiore in a performance of Schubert's "Trout" Quintet in Vienna, and Piers, unaware of her condition, accepts. Now Michael must chose whether to betray Julia's secret and her trust, or to honor his allegiance to the quartet.

Vikram Seth writes in his author's note, "Music to me is dearer even than speech" — a profession of utter devotion that resonates throughout An Equal Music . A musical amateur in the truest sense of the word, Seth has not only a thorough command of his subject; he incorporates his insights in such a way that they become integral to the novel — not some indigestible hash of horsehair, gut, and rosin served up in the name of verisimilitude. For Seth, music itself is its own truth. In the novel's final pages, Michael, emotionally battered by heartache and loss, ultimately finds comfort in the knowledge that music, "...such music, is a sufficient gift. Why ask for happiness; why hope not to grieve? It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music — not too much, or the soul could not sustain it — from time to time."
 

From Library Journal - Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P. L., Stanton, CA 

Following the widely acclaimed A Suitable Boy (LJ 4/15/93), Seth's third novel is a beautifully written piece set around the world of classical music. In this story of one mans life, readers are taken on a passionate journey, as seen through the eyes of violinist Michael Holme. As Michael travels through Europe as a member of a quartet, he reminisces about his lost love, Julia McNicholl, a pianist. The former lovers are reunited, but the depth of their love and trust is put to the test when Michael discovers that not only is Julia married and the mother of a young son but that she is also going deaf. Seths writing is rich with emotion and imagery. His work contains strong characterizations, and his knowledge of and research into the realm of classical music is evident. Readers cannot help being drawn into the story, regardless of their level of familiarity with the world of music. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. 


 

 

 
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