The exact reason for setting De groote hond en de kleine kat (The Large Dog and the Small Cat), a humoristic text by Albert Verwey, to music has not been documented. However, it may be assumed that the successful premiere of Den uil (The Owl, RC 56) by the Zalsman Quartet on 24 June 1903 was the main incentive. Diepenbrock may have offered this new piece to Zalsman, but as far as we know it was never performed by one of his ensembles. The premiere took place on 24 October 1916, when De groote hond en de kleine kat was the light-hearted conclusion of a concert with choral works from various style periods by the Madrigal Society conducted by Sem Dresden. The work was immediately encored.
Diepenbrock was enthusiastic about the performance:
Everything was superb, without exaggeration. For the following performances he gave Dresden instructions to make several refinements, for example by colouring one word more nasally and to make some chords sound less full: a little drier, more staccato. As far as he was concerned, a certain section could have
a little more the tone of clucking chickens: The less ‘human’ it sounds, the funnier it is. His conclusion was:
I am pleased this ditty has come about and it can also be a suitable final piece in the country. (BD IX:177-178)
The humour lies in the declamatory treatment of the text. Diepenbrock’s music graphically depicts the inevitable fight between the large dog (lower voice pair) and the small cat (upper voice pair).
There are other composers who have set Verwey’s De groote hond en de kleine kat to music, such as Bernard Zweers, whose version for male choir was published by Alsbach in Amsterdam in 1908.