Frank Delage, a middle-aged Australian, arrives in Vienna with the most daring of propositions. He has invented a revolutionary piano and means to market it to the grand old world of classical music. A chance meeting with one Amalia von Schalla brings new possibilities - a soirée, an introduction to her daughter Elisabeth, dinner with an avant-garde composer.
But when the sheer audacity of his campaign dawns on him, he takes a slow boat home to the southern hemisphere. As it meanders through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, he is afforded ample time to reflect on tensions between the old world and the new. And, for all his travails, he is not going home empty-handed...