Everyone in Vienna knows that the inhabitant of number 10 Seilersta¨tte 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 Seilersta¨tte and each, in his 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.