Paul Abraham Dukas was born into a Jewish family in Paris in 1865. His father was a banker and his mother played the piano. He began piano lessons with his mother at four years of age but, sadly she died in childbirth a year or so later. He did not display any particular talent until, at fourteen, he started composing. Little of his output is well known today – partly because of the success of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and partly because he was better known as a scholar and music critic. Having attended the Paris Conservatory with some distinction in his early life, he was subsequently appointed Professor of Composition.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Dukas composed the piece in 1897. It was an instant hit, and became even better known after 1940 when Walt Disney released the film cartoon “Fantasia”, in which Mickey Mouse was the apprentice.
The story originates from a poem by Goethe and begins with an old sorcerer who left his apprentice to clean the place up. Tired of fetching buckets of water, the apprentice uses some magic to get the brush and bucket to do the work for him. Everything is going well until the job is nearly finished, when his attempts to stop the process were frustrated by his lack of magical powers. Things get out of hand fast and he chops the broom in half. The two halves of the broom then resume the water carrying but at double the rate. Only the return of the old sorcerer saves the day, and the apprentice learns a valuable lesson.