The Cat Fugue By Domenico Scarlatti Is Inspired By A Cat Walk

Ever heard about a musical piece being inspired by an animal? Read more about Domenico Scarlatti and how he composed the cat fugue inspired by his cat (Pulcinella) walking on the harpsichord keyboard.

‘Cat Fugue’ is the classical music piece written by Domenico Scarlatti.

The musical idea came to Scarlatti’s mind only after his cat walked across his Harpsichord keyboard

“Cat’s Fugue – Fugue in G minor – K30” is a one movement Sonata written especially for Harpsichord. It is called a Sonata because the musical piece is meant to be played rather than sung.


A Harpsichord is not same as a Piano. It is a complete different musical instrument and has it’s own characteristics.

Watch Elaine Comparone playing Scarlatti’s Fugue in G minor on a Harpsichord.

About Domenico Scarlatti?

Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757) was an Italian composer belonging to the Baroque period. For your information, Baroque period was a significant period in the history of music preceding the famous classical period.

Although Scarlatti’s is known as a Baroque composer his music was influential during the classical period too. He was a versatile music composer well known for his 555 sonatas written for keyboard/piano.

The story of a cat fugue!

There’s a famous story from classical era describing how the composer discovered a strikingly unusual motif.

The name ‘Cat’s Fugue’ or ‘Cat Fugue’ was entitled during the 19th century. It was not originally named by the composer himself. The nickname was used during various concert programmes held in the 19th Century. However, it is still not clear – who gave the nickname to the musical piece.

The Fugue is based on the motif discovered accidentally when a cat waked across Scarlatti’s harpsichord keyboard. Based on these notes Scarlatti wrote a phrase during various improvisation sessions.

This phrase was used as the lead motif in the subsequent fugue. As you can hear, the main musical idea is repetitively used across various sections of the musical piece.

What is Motif?

A motif (or motive) is the smallest structural musical idea that has the thematic identity in its melody.

The motif may occur several times during various parts of the musical composition. The recurring usage of motifs gives a character to the musical piece.

What is a Fugue?

A fugue is a form of music composed using contrapuntal techniques built around a dominant phrase (also called as a motif). A motif is usually introduced at the beginning of the piece followed by repetitions in different octaves and different keys.

Analysis of Cat’s Fugue

The fun starts here!

Let’s watch a video demonstrating the repetitive use of the subject or motif used in the cat’s fugue.

The musical phrase shown with red dots is the subject around which the fugue is built.

Thanks for reading my 28th article in the series 100-day music blogging challenge.

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Published by Bharat

Hi, I'm Bharat. An artist, blogger, musician and digital marketing professional dedicated to sharing musing and stories about music, art and mindful resonance! Follow me @bharatpc