Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
Notes by TŌN violinist Nayoung Kim
Don’t you think you’ve heard this piece before? When I hear this piece, Mickey Mouse comes to mind. When I first watched the Dukas section of Walt Disney’s film Fantasia, I couldn’t pay attention to the music because I was just watching what Mickey Mouse did. Now, as I listen to it again, I think the reason why I enjoyed watching animated films was because this music was so incredibly fantastic. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was written in 1897 by French composer Paul Dukas and was inspired by a 1797 poem by Goethe. It is a story about a young man who is learning magic from his master. When the master leaves him alone, the apprentice tries to use magic, but things go wrong and he causes chaos. The music starts with a slow and mysterious introduction, which sets the stage for the magical world of the sorcerer. The main theme is then introduced, played by the strings and featuring a descending motif that suggests the apprentice’s descent into chaos. The melody is catchy and memorable, with a sense of urgency and tension that builds as the piece progresses. This piece is thrilling and dynamic, and it captures the magic and excitement of the story it portrays. The melody moves quickly from strings to wind instruments, and percussion helps you create various images in your head. Also, the contrast of dynamics makes the scene more imaginable for the audience. This piece repeatedly swirls, calms, and gradually re-swirls and calms down. The triumphant coda of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice brings the piece to a rousing conclusion: the music comes to a sudden stop, and the orchestra plays a final chord. I recommend you listen to the viola solo at the end; it is a beautiful and poignant moment, provisioning a brief respite from the frenzied energy of the rest of the music. The lonely and warm sound made me reminisce for a while. I hope you can let your imagination dance while listening to this music.