Pearsall: Duet for Two Cats
Ed. E. Hunt. Schott
This cat duet once made quite a noise overnight, because of its inclusion in Gerald Moore's farewell concert. It was then attributed to Rossini, as in its first publication (Quaderni Rossiniani, c1956) and in a recent separate Peters edition. But thereby hang two tales. First, there's no clear reason for any such ascription, as the Quaderni editorial commentary amply demonstrated (except to the editor concerned). Second there is evidence that the piece was in fact written by Robert Pearsall, better known for O who will o'er the downs so free.
It's a pity that the introduction to this welcome new edition should have missed the first of these points and muffed the second. The only serious argument is framed thus. The duet appears in a Pearsall Ms; he always acknowledged his borrowings; ergo, this must be his own work. But 'always' begs the question; the premises have been specially adapted to fit the conclusion. Further, we infer that Pearsall was a confirmed borrower, which leaves the thesis not so much advanced as retarded. Finally it is certainly impermissible to tell a cover story (“by Pearsall”) which is at variance with the inside information (“almost certainly by Pearsall”).
This is not to deny that the data, properly presented; do in fact point to Pearsall; full credit to Edgar Hunt for documenting that attribution, long ago suggested by the British Library catalogue. It was also a good idea to give an extract from the relevant holograph, and to reproduce the original (ex hypothesi, pseudonymous) publication by Ewer and Johanning-though some attempt should surely bave been made to establish its date (c1826). The text is occasionally ambiguous; it may be worth noting that on p.3 the left hand in bars 1-4 and 8-11 of the Andante just goes on repeating the key note. There are other equally lifeless examples of what might be called a catatonic pedal; no wonder people preferred Rossini. But the piece is after ali intended only to amuse; and all concerned should be wreathed in smiles.
The Musical Times, Jan. 1977