born on 1/10/1865 in Parigi, France
died on 17/5/1935 in Parigi, France
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' 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.
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. Dukas's last major work was the sumptuous oriental ballet La Péri (1912) about a man who reached the Ends of the Earth in a quest to find immortality, coming across a mythical Peri, holding The Flower of Immortality.
It is interesting to note that, due to the very quiet opening pages of this latter work, the composer added a brief 'Fanfare pour preceder La Peri' which gave the typically noisy audiences of the day time to settle in their seats before the work proper began.
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, Xian Xinghai, Olivier Messiaen, Jehan Alain, Elsa Barraine, Carlos Chávez, Georges Hugon, and David Van Vactor. After Dukas died, he joined the many other famous people buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
List of works
Published by the composer
- Polyeucte, overture for orchestra (1891)
- Symphony in C (18956)
- L'apprenti sorcier ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), for orchestra (1897)
- Piano Sonata in E-flat minor (1899-1900)
- Variations, interlude et finale sur un thème de Rameau, for piano (c.1899-1902)
- Ariane et Barbe-bleue, opera (1899-1907)
- Villanelle, for horn and piano (1906)
- Prélude élégiaque sur le nom de Haydn, for piano (1909)
- Vocalise-étude (alla gitana), for voice and piano (1909)
- La Péri, ballet (poème dansé) (1911; later supplemented with Fanfare pour précéder La Péri (1912))
- La plainte, au loin, du faune..., for piano (1920)
- Amours, sonnet for voice and piano (1924)
- Allegro, for piano (1925)
- Modéré, for piano (?) (1933; published posthumously in 1936)
Early unpublished works
- Air de Clytemnestre, for voice and small orchestra (1882)
- Goetz de Berlichingen, overture for orchestra (1883)
- Le roi Lear, for orchestra (1883)
- Chanson de Barberine, for soprano and orchestra (1884)
- La fête des Myrthes, for choir and orchestra (1884)
- L'ondine et le pêcheur, for soprano and orchestra (1884)
- Endymion, cantata for three solo voices and orchestra (1885)
- Introduction au poème "Les Caresses", for piano (1885)
- La vision de Saül, cantata for three solo voices and orchestra (1886)
- La fleur, for choir and orchestra (1887)
- Fugue (1888)
- Hymne au soleil, for choir and orchestra (1888)
- Vélléda, cantata for three solo voices and orchestra (1888)
- Sémélé, cantata for three solo voices and orchestra (1889)
Destroyed and projected works
- Horn et Riemenhild, opera (1892)
- L'arbre de science, opera (1899)
- Le fil de parque, symphonic poem (c.1908)
- Le nouveau monde, opera (c.1908-1910)
- Le sang de Méduse, ballet (1912)
- Symphony No. 2 (after 1912)
- Violin Sonata (after 1912)
- La tempête, opera (c.1918)
- Variations choréographiques, ballet (1930)
- An untitled orchestral work for Boston Symphonic Orchestra (1932)
- Free scores at the Mutopia Project
- Schwartz, Manuela, with G.W. Hopkins. "Paul Dukas", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 26 October 2006), grovemusic.com (subscription access).
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5