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Music soothes the skittish cat



Lily listens to Herbert Blomstedt conduct Richard Strauss’ “Metamorphoses.”

The television doesn’t always terrify my cat, Lily. It depends on what’s on. Long ago I started using headphones when I watch television, to accommodate Lily. Loud blockbuster movies scare the living daylights out of her. But she likes music. Last week, after we watched the weekly Saturday live stream from the Berlin Philharmonic with the speakers on, I accidentally changed channels to — you guessed it — a loud blockbuster movie. She had been lying beside me, and she shredded me as the speakers suddenly exploded and she jumped and ran.

Even with the speakers off, she knows what gunfights and explosions look like, and she’ll run and hide. But if she sees an orchestra, then she comes and lies down, and it’s safe to turn the speakers on.

Richard Strauss’ “Metamorphoses” is very agreeable to a sleepy cat. Written in 1945, the piece is an outpouring of Strauss’ grief over the destruction of Germany. According to Wikipedia, a few days after finishing the piece Strauss wrote in his diary:

The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2,000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.”

Germany recovered, though Strauss was too old to witness that recovery. He died in 1949.

Blomstedt is 96 years old and very feeble. He was assisted on and off the stage by the concertmaster, Vineta Sareika-V√∂lkner. The house was packed for what probably was one of the last occasions to hear Blomstedt conduct. This was the Berlin Philharmonic’s live stream on September 23, 2023.


Blomstedt conducts Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony.

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