The Guarneri Quartet is fabled for its unique longevity and high-spirited virtuosity. Here is its story from the inside—a story filled with drama, humor, danger, compassion, and, of course, glorious music.

A player who studies and performs the exalted string-quartet repertoire has opted for a very special life. Arnold Steinhardt, tracing his own development as a student, orchestra player, and budding young soloist, gives a touching account of how he and his intrepid colleagues were converted to chamber music despite the daunting odds against success. And he reveals, as no one has before, the intensely difficult process by which—on the battlefield of daily three-hour rehearsals—four individualists master and then overcome the confining demands of ensemble playing.