Paul Dukas Biography

Paul Dukas

Birthday: October 1, 1865 (Libra)

Born In: Paris, France

Paul Dukas’s was a noted French music composer whose works comprised of the overlapping elements of Romantic and Modern periods. Dukas was highly self-critic, and had attempted various varieties of music in his career. He also wrote music reviews for about five French journals. He was not only a composer, but also a scholar and teacher. Being appointed at the Conservatoire de Paris, Paul Dukas also taught at the Ecole Normale de Musique as professor of music. This position had been a substantial part of his life. He was strictly compulsive and self-critic, and being not satisfied with most of his own works, destroyed them. This unique personality, beyond doubt, made remarkable contributions in orchestration and was considered to be one among the most subtle and the perceptive critics of his time. Read through this biography and learn more about this musical maestro.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Paul Abraham Dukas

Died At Age: 69


Spouse/Ex-: Suzanne Pereyra

father: Jules Dukas

mother: Eugénie

children: Adrienne-Thérèse

Composers Educators

Died on: May 18, 1935

place of death: Paris, France

Notable Alumni: Conservatoire De Paris

City: Paris

More Facts

education: Conservatoire de Paris

awards: 1888 - Prix de Rome

Early Life
Paul Dukas was born in a Jewish family in Paris, to Jules Dukas and Eugenie. His father was a banker and his mother was a capable pianist. Unfortunately, Paul Dukas lost his mother at the age of five, due to delivery complications while giving birth to her third child, Marguerite-Lucie.  Dukas did not exhibit any sort of extra ordinary talent in music during his childhood, and like any other ordinary child, he took piano lessons. He started composing music when he became 14 years old. At the age of 16, towards the end of 1881, he attended the Conservatoire de Paris and undertook piano lessons from Georges Mathias, harmony with Theodore Dubois and also composition from Ernest Guiraud. Also, he had good experience learning under Hugo de Senger. It was during this time Dukas developed a strong friendship with his fellow student Claude Debussy. In 1888, Dukas received second place in the prestigious award, the Prix de Rome, for his cantata Velleda. He studied composition under the guidance of Ernest Guiraud, but did not stay there for long and left the Conservatoire out of frustration over his inability to win first position in Prix de Rome Awards.
After a brief military service, Paul Dukas began his career as a critic and composer. The review of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, which was conducted by Gustav Mahler at Covent Garden in the year 1892, marked the beginning of his career as a music critic. During 1890s he wrote his most well-known instrumental works which were ‘the Symphony in C (1896) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (1897). During 1910 – 1912, he served as Professor of the orchestral class at the Paris Conservatory. He was chosen for the same position and again from 1927 onwards he served the same position, until his death. Although he had written several musical works, he himself destroyed them out of dissatisfaction and hence, only a few of them are available now. Towards the beginning of the twentieth century, Dukas undertook two complex, large scale works for the solo piano, which comprised a Sonata in E-flat minor (1902) and ‘Variations, Interlude and Finale on a Theme of Rameau’ (1902).
Later Years And Death
By 1912, Dukas stopped composing and publishing them except for a single piano piece which was written in the loving memory of his friend, Claude Debussy. It was also stated that he had destroyed numerous musical manuscripts of his during the last weeks of his life. Dukas also collaborated with a publishing firm of Durand in Paris and hence, indulged in preparing modern editions of the works of Jean–Philippe Rameau, Francois Couperin and Domenico Scarlatti and also the piano works of Beethoven. 

Towards the end of his life, Dukas gained great reverence as a teacher of composition. In the year 1927, when Charles-Marie Widor retired from the position of the professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire, Dukas was recommended for the post. He had also been at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, as a teacher. Some of the famous musicians like Jehan Alain, Elsa Barraine, Francis Chagrin, Carlos Chávez, Maurice Duruflé, Georges Hugon, Jean Langlais, Olivier Messiaen, Manuel Ponce, Joaquín Rodrigo, David Van Vactor and Xian Xinghai were his students. Though he was conservative as a teacher, he never failed to encourage his talented pupils. In the last years of his life, he was elected member of the Academie des Beaux – Arts. Dukas respected the progressive and the conservative factions of the French musicians belonging to the same era. Dukas died at the age of 69 in Paris, in the year 1935. Paul Dukas was thus cremated and his ashes were placed in the columbarium at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.    

  • Symphony in C (1895–6)
  • L'apprenti sorcier ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), for orchestra (1897)
  • Piano Sonata in E-flat minor (1899–1900)
  • Variations, Interlude and Finale on a Theme by Rameau, for piano (c.1899–1902)
  • Villanelle, for horn and piano (1906)
  • Amours, sonnet for voice and piano (1924)
  • Allegro, for piano (1925)



1 October, Paul Dukas was born.


Dukas started composing music.


Entered Conservatoire de Paris.


Won second place in prestigious award, the Prix de Rome.


Composed 'the Symphony in C'.


 Composed ‘The Sorcerer's Apprentice’.  


Joined Paris Conservatoire as ‘Professor of Orchestra’.


Stopped compositions except for a single piano piece dedicated to Claude Debussy.


Started second term as Orchestral Professor at Paris Conservatoire.


17 May, Dukas died.

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