Paul Abraham Dukas (October 1, 1865 – May 17, 1935) was a French composer and teacher of classical music.
Life and career
Dukas was born in Paris to a Jewish father and Catholic mother. 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 works of note are the three concert overtures Goetz de Berlichingen (1883), Le Roi Lear (1883) and Polyeucte (1891) and 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 vivace, ma con fuoco; Andante espressive e sostenuto; Allegro spiritoso.
The symphony was followed by another orchestral work, L'apprenti sorcier (English: The Sorcerer's Apprentice) (1897), which is based on Goethe's poem "Der Zauberlehrling". The Sorcerer's Apprentice was used (in a slightly redacted version) in the Walt Disney film Fantasia – a total of perhaps one minute of the ten-and-a-half-minute piece was omitted. Dukas's rhythmic mastery and vivid orchestration are evident in both the Symphony in C and The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
For the piano, Dukas wrote two complex and technically demanding large-scale works, a Sonata in E-flat minor (1901) and Variations, interlude and finale on a theme of Rameau (1902), again reminiscent of Beethoven and Franck. (There are also two smaller works for piano solo.) The Sonata did not enter the mainstream repertoire, but it has been more recently championed by such pianists as Marc-André Hamelin.
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