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Paul Abraham Dukas (1 October 1865 – 17 May 1935) was a French composer, critic, scholar and teacher. A studious man of retiring personality, he was intensely self-critical, having abandoned and destroyed many of his compositions. His best-known work is the orchestral piece The Sorcerer's Apprentice (L'apprenti sorcier), the fame of which has eclipsed that of his other surviving works. Among these are the opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue, his Symphony in C and Piano Sonata in E-flat minor, the Variations, Interlude and Finale on a Theme by Rameau (for solo piano), and a ballet, La Péri.
Dukas was born in Paris, the second son in a Jewish family of three children. His father, Jules Dukas, was a banker, and his mother, Eugénie, was a capable pianist. When Dukas was five years old, his mother died giving birth to her third child, Marguerite-Lucie. Dukas took piano lessons but showed no unusual musical talent until he was 14 when he began to compose while recovering from an illness.
Dukas entered the Paris Conservatory in 1882, where he studied composition with Ernest Guiraud. He won the Prix de Rome in 1888 with his cantata Velléda. After a stay in Rome, he returned to Paris and continued his studies with Guiraud. He also began to write music criticism for several Parisian newspapers.
In 1893, Dukas's opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue was premiered at the Opéra-Comique. The opera was a critical and commercial success, and it established Dukas as a leading figure in French music.
In 1897, Dukas's orchestral piece The Sorcerer's Apprentice was premiered at a concert of the Société Nationale de Musique. The piece was an immediate success, and it has become one of the most popular orchestral works ever written.
Dukas continued to compose throughout his life, but he was a slow worker, and he published relatively few works. He died in Paris in 1935 at the age of 69.
Dukas was a master of orchestration, and his music is characterized by its clarity, elegance, and wit. He was also a gifted pianist, and his piano music is some of the most challenging and rewarding in the repertoire.
Dukas's music is still performed and enjoyed by audiences around the world. He is considered one of the most important composers of the late Romantic and early 20th centuries.