Andras is, at the start, a young and enthusiastic violinist with the Budapest Symphony. He is a hard worker, focused solely on success and his passion for music. He struggles as a man from a poor family surpasses Andras’s skills and claims the title of 1st violinist, as Andras is affronted by the triumph of a peasant over a nobleman. The new 1st violinist is unlucky in the fact that he is in love with a noblewoman, Ilona. After Andras learns of this, he discovers a way to get back at his rival. He courts and marries Ilona, hoping the man will go back to his village, heartbroken. However, the man simply devotes more time and effort to his music. A few years later, Andras and Ilona have a baby girl, but Andras is irked that he has no heir. Ilona is discovered to be infertile after the birth of their daughter, and Andras is secretly heartbroken that he will never have a son. But instead of confiding in his wife, he ignores her, withdrawing into his music studio, practicing. His role as baRon of his province is quickly diminishing with the gradual arrival of ww2 and communism, and as he watches his power and prestige slip away, he becomes angry. His frustration reaches a head when his old rival is arrested, and someone else is appointed to be the first violinist. So he leaves Hungary to seek work in Vienna, leaving his wife and child behind. He stays in Vienna for a year, but eventually he gives up, playing music for himself only, to distract him from the way his life has turned out. Upon his return to Budapest, he sees that his estate has been seized by the Russians and his family has Been killed.
Andrei’s story begins when he is a child, the son of a farmer whose wife is dead.