Thursday, October 1, 8865

Paul Dukas (1865-1935) - Sorcerer's Apprentice

Paul Dukas (1865-1935)

L'Apprenti Sorcier (1897)

Paul Abraham Dukas (October 1, 1865, Paris, France - May 17, 1935) was from a French-Jewish family. He studied under Théodore Dubois and Ernest Guiraud at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he became friends with the composer Claude Debussy. After completing his studies Dukas found work as a music critic and orchestrator; he was unusually gifted in orchestration and was one of the most sensitive and insightful critics of the era.

Although Dukas wrote a fair amount of music, he was a perfectionist and destroyed many of his pieces out of dissatisfaction with them. Only a few of his compositions remain. His first surviving work of note is the energetic Symphony in C (1896), which belongs to the tradition of Beethoven and César Franck. Like Franck's only symphony, Dukas's is in three movements rather than the conventional four: Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco; Andante espressive e fuoco; Allegro spiritoso.

The symphony was followed by another orchestral work, L'apprenti sorcier (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) (1897), which is based on Goethe's poem Der Zauberlehrling. The work was used in the Walt Disney film Fantasia. Dukas's rhythmic mastery and vivid orchestration are evident in both works.

The opera Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (Ariadne and Bluebeard), on which he worked from 1899 to 1907, has often been compared to Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, partly because of musical similarities and partly because both operas are based on libretti by Maurice Maeterlinck. The sumptuous oriental ballet La Péri (1912) was Dukas's last major work.

In the last decades of his life, Dukas became well known as a teacher of composition, with many famous students including Joaquín Rodrigo, Manuel Ponce, Maurice Duruflé, Olivier Messiaen, Jehan Alain, Carlos Chávez, and David Van Vactor. After Dukas died, he joined the scores of other famous people buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

[8865 Sibelius / 8865 Dukas / 8864 Richard Strauss]