Settling the Score

Michael Graubart Levin, Author Simon & Schuster $17.45 (252p) ISBN 978-0-671-66761-0
Imagine PBS doing a send-up of prime-time soap operas and you get some idea of Levin's uneven second novel (after The Socratic Method ). Donald Bright, conductor of the New York Symphony Chorus, discovers a long-lost Mozart mass, but he's denied the privilege of conducting its world premiere at Carnegie Hall. That honor has gone to Andrew Barnes, a former classmate of Bright's at the Manhattan Conservatory of Music and now conductor of the Royal Symphony of London. Barnes is a mediocre conductor whose career has been shaped, molded and manipulated by his domineering wife, Elizabeth. The novel opens a day before the premiere, amid tension and controversy. Barnes's benefit in London for a Palestine organization managed to somehow alienate both Jews and Arabs, and so his appearance in New York has been preceded by a number of death threats. But these threats originate from an unlikely source: James Carver, Bright's loyal piano accompanist, desperately wants his boss to conduct the premiere. Levin skillfully juggles a number of diverse characters (from an opera-loving cop to an ambitious, bed-hopping soprano), but the novel doesn't work as a full-blown farce. The satire lacks bite and the action at times seems forced, contrived and chatty. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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