Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Today is Paul Dukas's 150th birthday, which seems as good an excuse as any to get back in to my long delayed listening project - Pieces to Hear Once a Year. And, of course, I mean The Sorcerer's Apprentice (sorry Mr Dukas).

This is one of those pieces buried in my consciousness to the point of just being a part of my makeup. From the opening swirls I know I'm being carried into a magical world which rapidly escalates into dramatic misadventure. The music sweeps as irrevocably as the enchanted broomstick and carries us along the story in such a catchy way we can't escape it. It moves from climax to almost silence in a heartbeat and we listen all the more attentively as we just have to know what's happening, then again begins the build.

The appeal of this piece is broad because it's accessible, fun and dramatic without being overbearing or heavy. Yes, it has become tied very closely to a particular mouse, but the music called to the animators and gave them such a vivid story to tell. And they told it beautifully.

Since it is his birthday, I will say, Dukas did write more than just The Sorcerer's Apprentice and his other works deserve exploring. I particularly enjoy his symphony which is similarly rolling and accessible with a charm to it. Right now I'm listening to Polyeucte, based on a Greek myth, and it's suitably tragic but again it doesn't overwhelm you with its drama or mood and is actually rich and beautiful.

Why these other pieces aren't better known I'll never understand. Give them a go.

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