As a youngster, one knew that the first requirement for playing the piano was to be able to find Middle C. So, I got to wondering if the first requirement for composers was to be able to write a Symphony in C. After all, I thought, Beethoven went on to produce nine symphonies, but his first was indeed cast in that key. As time went by, it struck me that not all composers mused constantly on the symphony wavelength, devoting their time to other genres to secure their fame. In contrast to Haydn’s 100-plus symphonies, Mozart’s 40-plus, Beethoven’s nine, and so on, I noticed that some composers spawned just one: a Symphony in C major, or wrote a numberless symphony in the key, as if claiming a badge of honour alongside others who did similarly. Let’s hear extracts from some of them.
French composer Paul Dukas (1865–1935) is famed for his brilliant, meticulously scored symphonic scherzo The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, first performed in 1897. It subsequently became the focus of a ballet and later Walt Disney’s film Fantasia. Magical scoring is also a feature of his La péri (1912), a poème dansé of great imaginative verve. Dukas’ colourful Symphony in C was composed mid-way between these works and published in 1908. Continue reading and listening at blog.naxos.com