Dukas, Paul


Dukas, Paul

L’’Apprenti sorcier

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Paul Dukas – L’Apprenti sorcier (1897)

(geb. Paris, 1. Oktober 1865 — gest. Paris, 17. Mai 1935)

(The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, after Goethe’s ballad)

Assez lent (p. 1) – Vif (p. 2) – Assez lent – Vif (p. 3) – Vif (p. 5) – Plus animé (p. 41)

Très vif (p. 48) – Retenu (p. 49) – Vif (p. 51) – Plus animé (p. 68) – Assez lent (p. 72) – Vif (p. 74)

Paul Dukas occupies a special place among the great composers of his generation. He was an active critic – far more so than his close friend Claude Debussy, to whom he paid a visit on the day of his death; rarely has anyone in this profession combined such historically broad-based and independently minded specialist knowledge with such depth of observation and high-minded earnestness while remaining tolerant of contrary opinions. He was also the highly revered teacher of an entire generation of composers who later advanced to the forefront of French music: Jehan Alain, Maurice Duruflé, Claude Arrieu, Jean Langlais, Olivier Messiaen, and Elsa Barraine, not to mention Joaquín Rodrigo of Spain and Manuel Ponce of Mexico. Finally, he was one of the most technically accomplished composers of his day and an artist of inspired originality. Yet he left behind only a small body of works that managed to survive his self-criticism. Moreover, only one of them has entered the world’s standard repertoire and made his name truly famous: L’Apprenti Sorcier (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), a compact symphonic poem based on Goethe’s like-named ballad. Other of his works enjoy high esteem in professional circles, including his Maeterlinck opera Ariane et Barbe-bleu (1907), the “danced poem” La Péri of 1911 (his final magnum opus, premièred in 1912 despite his strong reservations toward the encouragement of his friends), the monumental Piano Sonata (1900), Variations, interlude et finale sur un thème de Beethoven (1899-1902), and the piece that immediately preceded The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the Symphony in C (1896). His other works, particularly all those written after La Péri, were kept secret and committed to the flames shortly before his death. Among them were a second symphony, several ballets, and a sonata for violin and piano (apart from a concert piece of 1905 entitled Villanelle for horn and piano, no chamber music from his pen survives at all).

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, composed in 1897, was Dukas’ fourth symphonic poem. Perfectly aware that this work had succeeded on all fronts, he saw no further cause to write another symphonic poem in order to capitalize on the great success that soon befell it. Just as he allowed practically nothing of his private life to reach the public eye (for a long time he would not even allow his picture to be taken, so that all existing photographs of him show him at an advanced age), he shunned every attempt to curry favor with the public. Only the best was occasionally good enough for him, and he constantly measured his music against the yardstick of the great masterpieces, with which, as an incorruptible critic, he was in continual contact. …

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