R. I. P. Ketzel

Ketzel Cotel, professional composer

It’s always a sad and traumatic moment when a much loved pet passes away, but occasionally it involves a specific and particular poignancy. Such was the case with cats such as Socks, Oscar and now Ketzel. Aside from being a cat, which is achievement enough for most kitties, Ketzel was also a prize winning composer.

Ketzel’s faithful companions and mentors were Aliya Cheskis-Cotel and the late Morris Moshe Cotel. Morris Cotel was the chairman of the Composition Department at the Peabody Conservatory. Professor Cotel was playing piano one morning when Ketzel strode across the keyboard, creating her own little composition. It had a certain “structural elegance” to it, so the professor wrote it down, then put it aside and went back to his own work.

Enter the Paris New Music Review with a contest for compositions of under one minute duration. Neither the professor nor his students had anything that short, but Professor Cotel remembered Ketzel had. He entered the piece, being admirably honest and noting on the form that the entrant was a cat (though that piece of information was withheld from the judges until after their decision). The composition, Piece for Piano, Four Paws, won Honorable Mention.

Later, Ketzel turned pro, earning royalties on her composition. The first, for $19.72, was for a performance in Rotterdam. It was also performed at the Museum of the City of New York, with the composer in attendance.

Full article here, with an audio of Piece for Piano, Four Paws.

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