Paul Dukas, Score Destroyer

Paul Dukas

Paul Dukas (1865-1935), studied composition at the Paris Conservatorie, alongside his close friend Claude Debussy. Dukas’s writing acts as a bridge between the French romantic composers and the new style of the Impressionists. His unique sound can be heard on his unpublished soprano solo, L’Ondine et le pêcheur (1884), written while he was a student of César Franck at the Conservatorie.  The alto saxophone is included in the orchestration of this solo, which can be heard on the introduction of this work.

The song itself is a great example of the changing styles taking place in Paris.  One foot is firmly rooted in the operas of Massenet, where the lyrical melody fits over a simple accompaniment.  The form gets dissected, as more frantic and chromatic flourishes interrupt the vocals, which is closer to the new style represented by Debussy and others. 

After leaving the Conservatorie in 1889, Dukas became a music critic, reviewing operas at Covent Garden. Dukas only published one opera, Ariane et Barbe-bleue in 1907. His background in criticism was somewhat self defeating, because his perfectionist instinct led him to destroy many of his scores later in life.[1] He destroyed four operas, one symphonic poem, two ballets, and a symphony. Was the saxophone included in any of those works? That remains a mystery.

[1] Manuela Schwartz and G.W. Hopkins, “Dukas, Paul (Abraham)” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online. date retrieved 10/5/20

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