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Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
Fanfare to La Péri [1:50]
La Péri – Poème Dansé [17:55]
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice [10:46]
Symphony in C (1897) (Allegro non troppo vivace, ma con fuoco [14:43]; Andante Espressivo [15:30]; Allegro Spiritoso [11:02])
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Jesus Lopez-Cobos
rec. Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 31 January, 1 February 1999
TELARC DSD CD 80515 [72:20]

Paul Dukas is famous for having burnt vast quantities of the music he wrote, due to his overly self-critical and perfectionist nature. He was born in Paris to musical parents, and started composing at an early age. He studied at the Conservatoire where he developed strong literary and musical interests, and where he later returned as a Professor. As well as composing and teaching, Dukas was highly respected as an outstanding editor and author on music.

This disc presents three of his best known works, two of them fairly early compositions (the Symphony and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), while the piece that opens the disc, La Peri, was the last work of his to be published. A single-movement "poème dansé", it was commissioned by the Russian ballerina Natalia Trouhanova and tells the story of a young man, Iskender, who seeks a flower of immortality, the lotus. He eventually finds one, but it is in the possession of a sleeping peri - peris being fay people in Persian mythology – they descended from fallen angels and are forced to do penance here before they can return to heaven. He takes the flower from the peri, but falls in love with her and can’t bring himself to leave. When she awakes she dances for him, until he is willing to do anything for a kiss. She demands the flowers back, but then fades into the sunset, leaving him with nothing. The piece ends with his growing realisation that his own death will not be long in the coming. It is a wonderfully impressionistic piece, and well-played by the Cincinnati Symphony under Jesus Lopez-Cobos in a vibrant, lively and sensitive performance.

This is followed by Dukas’s most famous work – a work that, rather like Holst’s Planets, was somewhat to his detriment, as its popularity meant that other, more important works, were overshadowed. This, of course, was exacerbated by the fact that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was originally written as something of a joke. The plot – too well-known to be repeated here - comes from an ancient tale of which Goethe wrote a ballad. This is a good performance - well paced, with pleasingly-controlled climaxes, wonderfully growly bassoons and a good sense of fun, although the ending could have slightly more punch and control.

Dukas started work on his Symphony in C in 1895 and it was performed to tremendous acclaim in Paris two years later. It has three movements, all of which are classical in form, opening with a bold Allegro non troppo vivace, ma con fuoco, moving on to an impressionistically rhapsodic and romantic Andante Espressivo, while a dynamic Allegro Spiritoso concludes the work and the disc. The playing throughout is colourful and expressive.

Although the disc is not particularly well presented – the notes are good enough but the graphics rather poor and there are no notes on the orchestra or conductor, this is nonetheless a nice selection of works by a composer often overlooked.

Em Marshall


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Symphonies 1, 2, 3


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