Vienna Dreaming

‘As consistently strong as the suite was, the opening Vienna Overture was especially compelling…. Ghosts of Johann Strauss, Frank Zappa and Miles Davis all seemed to materialise and dematerialise at various points, but without any sense of appropriation’

– John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald

VIENNA DREAMING is a suite of music I have composed and dedicated to my great grandfather, Heini Portnoj (1895-1984).  Heini grew up in Vienna and was a working musician and composer  in the great music city before his career was cut short by the rise of the Nazi’s.  As an Austrian jew his life was also in danger.  Thankfully he managed to escape the city with his wife Annie and her child Elizabeth, my maternal grandmother.  They ended up as refugees in Australia’s Tatura internment camp and at the conclusion of the war Heini went on to have a successful career as a pianist, accompanist and operatic singing coach here in Australia.

I was commissioned to compose this music to commemorate Heini’s life by my Aunt and family historian, Julia Trainor.  I was afforded some time as an artist in residence at the musicians cottage at Bundanon Trust to work on this music.

I decided to write in the style of program music and deliberately used a combination of acoustic and electronic instruments to create an other worldly dream like atmosphere.  I was keen to keep the music in an ethereal realm and have endeavoured to evoke general feelings and imagery rather than try to recreate specific sounds of the past.

Vienna Dreaming was composed and arranged by Matt Keegan, Produced by Matt Keegan & Richard Belkner at Free Energy Device Studios and performed by Sydney City Electro Acoustic Ensemble.


Matt Keegan – Saxes, Clarinets, woodwind synths, keyboard synths
Mary Rapp – Cello
Dave Rodriguez – Guitar & FX
Hanna James – Double bass
Miles Thomas – Drums & percussion
Special Guest: Matt McMahon – Piano and synth

“The variety in the treatment of his saxophone is a case in point – the way it warps with chorus, doubled and sizzling, or distorts and bends to meet the brilliant use of keyboards and violin, is satisfying in and of itself. Think of a more jazz-oriented Tame Impala, and you get a sense of the modern attitude at work”

– Jacob Stone, Limelight

The Vienna Dreaming Storyboard

Graphics by Monica Higgens (Green Peas for Breakfast)

Vienna Overture

An old man sitting by himself in a large chair gazing out the window on a rainy afternoon.  Strains of distant music float through his mind and he is transported to a world he once knew. Suddenly we are in old Vienna but we drift away all too soon.

The Femina

A dreamlike impressionistic view of couples dancing in the once grand Viennese club where Heini was the musical director for 9 years.


Love at first sight in the city of music – an accompaniment to meeting his wife for the first time.


Confused feelings as things change for the worse in the city.  The coda shifts abruptly to a reflective mood as the feeling that the city has changed forever sinks in.


Time to leave Vienna.  Reflections on how it must have felt to flee the city he loved.

The Not Knowing

A stark and soulful expression of the thoughts and feelings Heini must have had about the many family members and friends that were lost forever in the war.  He never found out their fate.

Vienna Dreaming Performances

Photos by Peter Hislop & Shane Rozario