“DUET CATS” FOR TWO VOICES AND PIANO
A comic vocal piece for two voices (usually soprano) with piano accompaniment (there are also orchestrations) “The Cat Duet” depicts two mewing cats. The whole world knows and loves this sparkling musical joke and ascribes it to her composition by Joaquino Rossini. Only now the composer himself did not realize that he became the author of this work.
Cats are performed on “Hurray!”
The Duet of Cats is a famous performance, a win-win encore for any vocal concert. It always ensures success, especially when it is performed by brilliant singers and also actors – the audience is delighted!
The duet was repeatedly recorded by prominent performers. There are recordings of Victoria de los Angeles and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (piano Gerald Moore), Felicity Lott and Anne Murray (piano Graham Johnson; there is also a concert video from the Air Force where the singers are accompanied by conductor Andrew Davis), Elizabeth Söderström and Kerstin Iron Meyer , Edita Gruberova and Veselina Kasarova (piano Friedrich Haider). The duet was performed by Montserrat Caballe with actress Concha Velasco, as well as with her daughter, singer Montserrat Marty. The duo was also performed by sisters Ruzanna and Karina Lisitsian.
The story of the “Cat Duet” hides many mysteries and hoaxes. The exact date of publication of this work is not known, but around 1825 notes appeared, signed by the unfamiliar names of G. Bertold. It is believed that such an alias was taken by the English composer Robert Lucas de Piersall. Frankly, de Piersall was not a composer, the Cauchon duo served as a lawyer, but after an apoplexy hit, he decided to move from Britain to Germany and start composing music.
The amateur composer de Piersall was not famous during his lifetime. He was forgotten shortly after his death, and most of the writings the world would never have recognized if it were not for the enchanting fate of The Cat Duet. The question arises: why did de Piersall publish it under a false name. The answer is simple: because he borrowed music, moreover, from two of his colleagues at once. He took the first part of the duet from the Danish composer Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weiss from his Cat’s Cavatina. Weiss provided de Piersoll not only the witty idea of opera music for cats, but also part of the musical material, and the second and third parts were taken from Joaquino Rossini himself. These were two fragments from Act II of his opera Othello (excerpt from Othello and Iago duet and one of Rodrigo’s arias’ Ah, come mai non senti ”) based on Shakespeare’s tragedy.
“Cat Duet” – criticism of opera traditions
In those days, the copyright law did not yet exist, and yet de Piersall chose to remain anonymous, the Cat-duet duet, he allowed himself liberty – a parody of the great Rossini, which went crazy across Europe. He offered to laugh at the opera traditions, at the heart-rending love passions on the stage. Most likely, the name “Duet of Cats” is not entirely accurate. In fact, a real love scene between a cat and a cat unfolds in front of the audience. Of course, this is a parody of the traditional love duets from Italian operas: at the beginning mutual reproaches and languid sighs are mandatory, and then comes the joy of love and the delight of united hearts.
Cats in love perfectly manage with one single word “Meow!”, Because in the Italian duet often the words “My angel” can be repeated several pages.
Long life of the “Cat duet”
Ironically, the stupid and slightly primitive meowing duet, made up of pieces of other people’s music, has become hundreds of times more popular and beloved. The duo is feline borrowed music itself. The mockery of de Piersall was picked up by the history of music, but turned it against the “author” himself. His nobody-known pseudonym G. Bertold quickly disappeared from people’s memory, and the audience, recognizing Rossinevian melodies in “The Cat Duet”, had no doubt that the play belongs to Rossini.
Musical encyclopedias often indicate “The Cat Duet” in the list of works by Joaquino Rossini. So it looks like the duet has returned to one of its real authors. But another co-author Friedrich Weiss was less fortunate. His name has remained forgotten, and in fact he is the one who owns the idea of cat playing music, which was picked up by Robert Lucas de Piersall.
One way or another, despite the authorship, “The Duet of Cats” lives a vibrant, full-fledged and independent life. The “Cat Duet” on average sounds 3 minutes 20 seconds, but enjoys incredible popularity and is performed at almost every concert of classical music, breaking a storm of applause.