When you think of Chopin, you don’t necessarily think of whimsical musical pieces about cats and dogs. But the story goes that two of his waltzes may have been inspired by pets.
The pets actually belonged to George Sand and her family, with whom Chopin was living at the time. They had a cat, Valdeck, and two dogs, Marquis and Dib.
Valdeck, being a cat, would occasionally walk or scamper across Chopin’s piano. That part of the story is certainly true, as anyone who owns a cat and a piano will attest. The story goes that the notes the cat sounded in its journey across the keyboard caught Chopin’s ear. We’ll never know for sure if that is true, but a minute into Chopin’s Waltz in F Major (Op. 34 No. 3), there is a sprightly flutter of notes up and down the keyboard that might sound to you like a cat running on the keyboard. You can judge for yourself.
As for Marquis, the story goes that Marquis was chasing his tail, and George Sand challenged Chopin to write music to describe it. And so they say the “Little Dog Waltz” was born, though most people know it by the name Minute Waltz (Op. 64 No. 1). Listen and see if you can picture the dog chasing its tail.
And if you have a minute, you might also want to check out this humorous rendition by Marc-André Hamelin, in which the music goes somewhat, and delightfully, awry).
While we may never know if these stories are completely true, we know that Chopin wrote the Galop Marquis with Marquis in mind: his name on the manuscript!
“Piano Playing Cat” by ryansmut February 1, 2010, http://ryansmut.deviantart.com/art/piano-playing-cat-152617468
Image of Galop Marquis manuscript, http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/books-manuscripts/chopin-frederic-gallop-marquis-manuscrit-musical-5151994-details.aspx