1897: Dukas: Sorcerer’s Apprentice in F minor

WEDNESDAY, September 23, 2020 – 5:35 AM

(This is wonderful music, but I also want my students to listen to the time stamps with augmented chords. I have never heard any piece of music that used the augmented chord more as a center part of the whole composition. I heard these chords instantly. This is a good place to start listening for this chord. It is always about tension, drama, something edgy. It happens most often when the brooms are completely out of control and there is water everywhere. It’s actually kind of terrifying.)

1897: Dukas: Sorcerer’s Apprentice in F minor, age 32

This is not the only thing Paul Dukas wrote, but it is far away the most famous. In fact, the composer grew to hate it’s extreme popularity because most people hardly knew he wrote anything else, and indeed that remains mostly true today.

Mickey Mouse and the brooms, watch and listen HERE:

It takes less than 10 minutes, so enjoy the amazing animation. Unfortunately the recording is very old, in mono, but it’s worth watching just to see how Disney synced the story to the music. So I’ll next link these scenes to a modern recording. Just try to remember the story.

Instrumentation:

  • 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 soprano clarinets and bass clarinet, 3 bassoons and contrabassoon (or contrabass sarrusophone)
  • 4 horns, 2 trumpets (in C), 2 cornets, 3 trombones
  • timpani, glockenspiel, bass drum, cymbals, triangle
  • harp

Here are the places with augmented chords…

Listen to these places just for a few seconds. Then as you listen to the whole thing, try to feel the tension.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bernstein:

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Stokowski

This is the the legendary version by Stokowski. Be sure to listen to this, if you like the music, because this is unique.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, young players

These players are incredibly young. They are not as polished as the older players, and there are some ragged spots, but it’s so impressive to see these young players so involved in the music.

The augmented chord…

Once again, the augmented chord is front and center, the most important chord in the piece. There is also a great use of the whole tone scale, which is simply like two augmented chords combined.

There are so many great recordings…

There are countless great recordings of this piece, but for students this one may be most interesting because the players are so very young. It’s unbelievable to me that people this age play so well and with so much energy.

Dukas, three years younger than Debussy…

We know the music better than the composer…

Famous for 122 years…

This was already popular from the time it was composed, but the Disney film, “Fantasia”, made it wildly popular, and it remains so. Again you can hear how modern this sounds, because it sounds like it’s right out of Harry Potter, and the music for that was again written by John Williams.

If you are interested for comparison, try one of the recordings with famous orchestras with famous conductors.

Fantasia…

Today the sound is dated, but Disney and Stokowski teamed together to make Fantasia, and it was the first time most people anywhere in the world heard stereo. I first heard this in a theatre when I was a small boy, and I was mesmerized by the sound. We had never head anything like this. Ever. The first stereo recordings on records did not appear until the late 50s, and even then there were very few.

7 thoughts on “1897: Dukas: Sorcerer’s Apprentice in F minor

  1. Not the first time hearing it, but this time with some fresh ears thanks to some bits that you pointed out. I especially appreciated the augmented chord being pointed out. Much of it is just pure fun!

  2. I like Disney. I love the animation, the sound and the feeling and it’s kind of like you are in a marching band. It makes you feel like when you are doing chores, you are a wizard.

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