The most interesting relationship in "An Equal Music" is not Michael and his long-lost love Julia, but Michael and the Maggiore Quartet. Vikram Seth does a fine job capturing the complicated interactions of the quartet's members: the ego clashes, the artistic disagreements, the ability to create transforming music. From the rehearsals to the searches for the perfect instrument, Seth is able to create a compelling picture of the life of these musicians.
Unfortunately, his portrayal of the relationship between Michael and Julia is not nearly so successful. There's certainly no joy in their love. Julia never seems like a real woman, just a sad and beautiful image. It's never clear why Julia, having made a new life after Michael seemed to abandon her, jeopardizes that life to be with him again. As for Michael, he becomes more self-pitying and cruel as the affair progresses. He feels no guilt about the affair but he can't embrace the moment either. Eventually the whole thing just becomes tiresome.
The love affair feels like it was written by rote. Seth is clearly far more interested in the life of the musicians and it shows.