I’m sorry to have to report that the composer, Ketzel, has died. As you can see by the dates above, she was only 19.
Oh yes, she was also a cat.
Ketzel (“cat” in Yiddish) was a one-hit wonder among composers — she never wrote another piece. And her career was launched only because she launched herself onto the keyboard of Professor Cotel’s Baldwin grand one morning in 1996.
He was playing a prelude and fugue from “The Well-Tempered Clavier” by Bach, as he did every morning — he worked his way through a different prelude and fugue each day, as a kind of warmup exercise.
On the morning in question, Ketzel leapt onto the piano, landing in the treble. She worked her way down to the bass. Professor Cotel was startled, but grabbed a pencil and started transcribing. He was impressed by the “structural elegance” of what he heard, Ms. Cheskis-Cotel said. “He said, ‘This piece has a beginning, a middle and an end. How can this be? It’s written by a cat.’”
We gave the piece serious consideration because it was quite well written,” Guy Livingstone, one of the judges, said in 1997. “It reminded us of Anton Webern. If Webern had a cat, this is what Webern’s cat would have written.”
Let’s see … the new principal oboist and the new principal clarinetist of San Francisco Opera. The new second bassoonist of San Francisco Ballet. And so many others … under 30 seems to be the norm these days.
And now this …
High on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s wish list for a new concertmaster was a violinist who could lead the group forward while connecting to its illustrious past.
No one envisioned the violinist also would connect to his own past in a remarkable way.
The PSO and its music director, Manfred Honeck, on Saturday announced the hiring of Noah Bendix-Balgley, 27, who is relatively unknown in the field but set the orchestra’s audition process on its head with his late entry into the competition. It turns out the American violinist is not the first in his family to play in the group.
“I was not aware of it until a few weeks ago — my great-grandfather, Samuel J. Leventhal, played in the PSO under Victor Herbert,” said Mr. Bendix-Balgley, who is living in Munich. “He played under Brahms in Leipzig, Germany, and joined the PSO as a 20-year-old in 1900, leaving in 1904.”
Wow. 27 years old an concertmaster of Pittsburgh. Pretty amazing!