Cats in the 19th Century (Part 10-Cats and Musicians)

Alexander Borodin cats in history

Alexander Borodin

Great musicians such as Alexander Borodin, Rimsky Korsakov, Giacchino Rossini (1792-1868)  and Ignacy Paderewski loved the cat too. It seems that cats and musicians were well suited to one another. The great Russian composers Borodin (1833-1887) and Rimsky Korsakov  (1844-1908)were great friends.  Borodin was a well-known cat lover and Rimsky-Korsakov even wrote about Borodin’s unruly cats.  “Many cats, that the Borodins’ lodged, marched back and forth on the table, thrusting their noses into the plates or leaping on the backs of the guests.  These felines enjoyed the protection of Catherine Sergueïevna.  They all had biographies.  One was called Fisher because he was successful in catching fish through the holes in the frozen river.  Another, known as Lelong, had the habit of bringing home kittens in his teeth which were added to the household.  More than once, dining there, I have observed a cat walking along the table.  When he reached my plate I drove him away; then Catherine Sergueïevna would defend him and recount his biography.  Another installed himself on Borodin’s shoulders and heated him mercilessly.  “’Look here, sir, this is too much!’ cried Borodin, but the cat never moved.” (Van Vechten, 1922) 



The Italian composer Giacchino Rossini (1792-1868) who is famous for writing The Barber of Seville is

Rossini cats and musicians cats in history

Giacchino Rossini

also attributed to writing Duetto Buffo dei due Gatti,  (“humorous duet for two cats”).  A popular performance piece for two sopranos it is often performed as a concert encore. The “lyrics” consist entirely of the repeated word “miau” (“meow”).


Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) was a Polish composer and pianist who became the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Poland in 1919, and is claimed to have been  calmed by a cat during his first piano concerto.  The story goes that Paderewski was suffering from a bout of stage fright at his first major concert in London when he admittedly was put at ease by an errant cat

jumping into his lap during the performance.  Not at all put off, Paderewski allowed the cat to remain in his lap throughout the performance perhaps being comforted by the purring feline (Lane, 2004).


Ignacy Paderewski

Ignacy Paderewski



While the piece is typically attributed to Gioachino Rossini, it was not actually written by him, but is instead a compilation written in 1825 that borrows from his 1816 opera, Otello. The English composer Robert Lucas de Pearsall most probably compiled the piece, and, for this purpose, used the pseudonym “G. Berthold”  Woodstra, Chris. All Music Guide to Classical Music, 2005, p. 1126. 


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