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Mickey Mouse may be the most American of apprentices, but the 1897 tone poem by Paul Dukas (1865-1935) which inspired the most famous section of Disney's celebrated Fantasia (1940) is distinctively Gallic. Olivier Messiaen, one of the many 20th-century French composers who studied orchestration with Dukas at the Paris Conservatory, claimed that The Sorcerer's Apprentice was in part a satire on the literalness with which Richard Strauss went about musical description in his own tone poem Till Eulenspiegel (1894). Certainly there is a brevity and clarity to The Sorcerer's Apprentice that might be considered French, as well as a sardonic attitude.
In terms of graphic description, however, Dukas is at least as extreme as Strauss. His zesty scherzo of a tone poem is based on a German ballad by Goethe, and tells the tale quite faithfully. As does Disney. Right down to the final kick-in-the-pants and the master's hidden grin, every detail of Goethe's story of the apprentice who started something he couldn't stop is mirrored in music and animation.
Dukas never wrote much, and has survived for posterity as a one-hit wonder of sorts. But what a hit it is, with a unforced drive and colorful scoring that has been an influence on many subsequent composers.