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‘Ketzel,’ (Feline) Musical Genius, Dies at 19

She won a prize for piano composition in 1997, at the tender age of five. She won a coveted spot in a book called The World of Women in Classical Music. And last week — at 19 — she passed away.

Yes, Ketzel accomplished more than many felines her age. As the New York Times reports today, Ketzel — Yiddish for “cat” — gained fame after inadvertently “composing” a short piece by walking across her owner’s piano keyboard.

Ketzel’s person happened to be the late Morris Moshe Cotel, who had retired as chairman of the composition department at Peabody Conservatory in 2000 and became a rabbi, according to the Times.

Professor Cotel set aside Ketzel’s magnum opus — “until he received an announcement seeking entries for the Paris New Music Review’s One-Minute Competition, open to pieces no more than 60 seconds long,” the Times said.

“He said, ‘I don’t have anything that’s less than 60 seconds and my students don’t,’” his wife, Aliya Cheskis-Cotel, told the Times, “‘but I’ll send in the piece by the cat.’”

Professor Cotel explained the composer’s identity in the entry, but the judges were not told; they were shown only the music. They awarded “Piece for Piano, Four Paws” a special mention.

Like many other musicians — “Midori, Liberace, Mantovani and Madonna, for example — Ketzel went by only one name, except when the occasional royalty check came in,” the Times wrote. The first, for $19.72, was for a performance in Rotterdam. The check was made out to “Ketzel Cotel.”

Ketzel lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

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‘Ketzel,’ (Feline) Musical Genius, Dies at 19

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