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Biography

Paul Dukas (1 October 1865 – 17 May 1935) was a French composer of classical music.

Dukas was born Paul Abraham Dukas in Paris to a Jewish family and studied, under Théodore Dubois and Ernest Guiraud among others, at the Conservatoire there, where he was a friend of Claude Debussy. After completing his studies he found work as an orchestrator and critic.

Although Dukas wrote a fair amount of music, he destroyed many of his pieces out of dissatisfaction with them, and only a few remain. His first surviving work of note is the energetic Symphony (1896) which belongs to the tradition of Beethoven and César Franck. It was followed by another orchestral work, L'apprenti sorcier, better known under its English title The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1897), which is based on Goethe's poem "Der Zauberlehrling". This piece was used in the Walt Disney film Fantasia, which accounts for much of its fame. Dukas's rhythmic mastery and vivid orchestration are evident in both works.

For the piano, Dukas wrote two complex and technically demanding large-scale works, a Sonata (1901) and Variations, interlude and finale on a theme of Rameau (1902), again reminiscent of Beethoven and Franck. 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 such as Joaquín Rodrigo, Maurice Duruflé, Olivier Messiaen and Jehan Alain. He died in Paris and is one of many famous people to be buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery there.

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