Why This Kid Gave an Octopus to a String Quartet

Why This Kid Gave an Octopus to a String Quartet

photo via Shutterstock

Love classical music stories? 

We do too.

Here is a heartwarming, semi-unbelievable story from classical music history to start your day.

When a Little Girl Gifted an Octopus to a String Quartet

At the height of their fame, no string quartet was more important than the Cleveland Quartet.

Originally composed of four now-legendary string musicians, the Cleveland Quartet was a landmark ensemble. 

Their accomplishments were enormous in their time…

They were the first classical musicians to ever perform at the Grammy Awards in 1973. 

They performed at the White House. 

They even had a one-hour televised special dedicated to them. 

And, they were as busy as it gets, touring for half the year performing 100 shows annually.

You get the idea: the Cleveland Quartet, between 1970 – 1995, was a huge deal.

In the notes for their final concert, Paul Katz, cellist of the Cleveland Quartet, shared a touching story with the audience…

At one point in the history of the ensemble, they performed five consecutive concerts in London. 

Over the course of these five nights, the Cleveland Quartet performed the entire Beethoven cycle.

Every single night of this concert series, a small girl, no older than age 8 or 9, sat intently in the front row.

Keep in mind the following:

The average age of a classical music audience member is between 41 and 61, which makes the consistent front-row attendance of a young girl all that more unusual.

Paul Katz, in his program notes, noted this girl had “enormous concentration (and a) joyous, uninhibited response” for the music they were playing.

Her presence affected the ensemble so much, their unofficial slogan for the series became “Let’s play this one for the little girl in the first row.”

Finally, the last concert came to a close, and the musicians went backstage.

Now listen to the next part closely…

When the musicians were backstage, they were greeted with a surprise!

The little girl came to meet her idols, the four musicians of the Cleveland Quartet.

She then handed over, as a gift, something entirely unexpected.

A stuffed plush octopus doll!

Then, the little girl revealed what the gift ACTUALLY meant…

The octopus, which she named “Mr. Cleveland” after the Cleveland Quartet, had “one head, one heart, and eight hands that work together perfectly.”

Needless to say, it was the ultimate compliment a youthful audience member could ever give to an ensemble of 8 total hands.

What Happened to the Cleveland Quartet

There is no record of what happened after this memorable evening in London.

Maybe the little girl became a great musician herself, or maybe she just went through her life doing something else.

Regardless, the Cleveland Quartet continued to perform at the highest level, having toured Europe, America, and all throughout the world for over two decades.

Eventually, the group disbanded in 1995 after 25 years together.

The members all became faculty at top music schools, coaching some of the most prominent chamber ensembles, soloists, and orchestral musicians of the next generation.

Classical Music Team

YES Classical Music is one of the leading sources for classical music news, reviews, and opinion online!

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