An Equal Music

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An Equal Music
BroadwayBooks ImprintofRandomHouse 1999 VikramSeth AnEqualMusic FirstEdition Cover.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorVikram Seth
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherPhoenix House
Publication date
8 April 1999
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages383 pages (first edition, hardcover), 400 pages (hardcover edition) & 400 pages (paperback edition)
ISBN1-86159-117-9 (first edition, hardcover), (ISBN 0-7679-0291-2 (hardcover edition) & ISBN 0-375-70924-X (paperback edition)

An Equal Music (1999) is a novel by Vikram Seth.


The plot concerns Michael, a professional violinist, who never forgot his love for Julia, a pianist he met as a student in Vienna. They meet again after a decade, and conduct a secret affair, though she is married and has one child. Their musical careers are affected by this affair and the knowledge that Julia is going deaf.

A recurring element throughout the plot is the pair's performance of Beethoven's Piano Trio Opus 1 No.3, which they first perform in their college days.


Seth credits his then-partner, the French violinist Philippe Honoré, as inspiring him with the idea for An Equal Music in an acrostic Onegin stanza on Honoré's name in the epigraph:

Perhaps this could have stayed unstated.
Had our words turned to other things
In the grey park, the rain abated,
Life would have quickened other strings.
I list your gifts in this creation:
Pen, paper, ink and inspiration,
Peace to the heart with touch or word,
Ease to the soul with note and chord.
How did that walk, those winter hours,
Occasion this? No lightning came;
Nor did I sense, when touched by flame,
Our story lit with borrowed powers –
Rather, by what our spirits burned,
Embered in words, to us returned.[1]

Seth together with Philippe Honoré marketed a double CD of the music mentioned in An Equal Music, performed by Honoré.[2]


The book was especially well received by musical fans, who noted the accuracy of Seth's descriptions of music.

Paolo Isotta, one of Italy's most significant music critics, wrote in the influential newspaper Il Corriere della Sera of the Italian translation that no European writer had ever shown such a knowledge of European classical music, nor had any European novel before managed to convey the psychology, the technical abilities, even the human potentialities of those who practise music for a living.[3]

Works referenced[edit]

Several musical works figure prominently in An Equal Music. Among these are the Trout Quintet by Franz Schubert, the String Quintet in C minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, and The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.


  1. ^ Amazon: An Equal Music,, retrieved 2007-09-05.
  2. ^ Amazon: An Equal Music (CD),
  3. ^ Albertazzi, Silvia (20 January 2005), "An equal music, an alien world: postcolonial literature and the representation of European culture", European Review, Cambridge University Press, 13, pp. 103–113, doi:10.1017/S1062798705000104.