When Walt Disney matched up Paul Dukas' symphonic poem "The Sorcerer's Apprenctice" with Mickey Mouse in the classic film animation "Fantasia", he brought Dukas a fame the French composer had never experienced in his lifetime.
It's perhaps rather unfair that his reputation rests virtually on just one piece, although it becomes more understandable when one considers that he was a composer who was forever discarding his efforts, revising and reducing to such an extent, fewer than twenty works remain. Nonetheless during his lifetime Dukas was an influential voice in musical circles, comfortably sharing his time between roles as a musicologist, music critic and teacher. The roll-call of his students is impressive, including Jehan Alain, Maurice Duruflé, Jean Langlais and Olivier Messaien. As a Parisian born and bred, whose career coincided with la belle époque in French culture, he knew, personally, all the significant figures in France's musical life at this time, Fauré, d'Indy, Chausson, Chabrier and Debussy, whom he first met as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, were among the composers, but he also knew all the important musicians and literary and artistic figures too. They all seem to have appreciated his intelligence during this period of dramatic aesthetic change. Through his musical criticism he promoted the composers he admired, Rameau, Gluck Wagner and his friend Debussy. Both Debussy and Fauré appreciated his incisive writing, which Fauré described as being "remarkable, instructive and zesty"!
The week begins with a look at Dukas' development up to the point he wrote The Sorcerer's Apprentice, including the work that first brought Dukas to public attention, Polyeucte, and an early Overture, Le roi Lear, a student work which Dukas never heard performed in his lifetime.