All Vienna knows that the inhabitant of number 10 Seilerstatte is none other than Christopher Alt, piano maker, the best in Vienna, probably in all of Austria, and possibly the world over. His piano keys have given life to melodies by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and many more. On his deathbed, moved by the wish to keep his children united, he leaves a will specifying that his descendants, if they are to get their inheritance, must live together in the family home. Over successive generations of the Alt family, history itself passes through the doors, down the halls, and into the private rooms of the Alt’s building. There is intrigue at the court of Franz-Josef: an heir to the throne has fallen in love with Henrietta Alt, who will have to carry the guilt for his eventual suicide. There are betrayals, beloved illegitimate children, and despised legitimate offspring. There are seething passions and icy relations, a world war and the rise of Nazism to contend with. There are duals, ambitions, hopes, affairs of the heart and affairs of state. Three generations of Alts live and die at number 10 Silerstatte and each member of the family, in his or or her own way, is a privileged witness to the winds of change and a Europe at the height of both its splendor and decadence.
Ernst Lothar was born in Brünn, Austria-Hungary (now Brno in the Czech Republic) in 1890 and died in Vienna in 1974. He was a writer, theater director, and producer. In addition to The Vienna Melody, first published in the US in 1944 as The Angel with the Trumpet, his best-known works are The Prisoner and Beneath Another Sun. He was married to the Austrian actress Adrienne Gessner.