Théodore Dubois

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Theodore Dubois, c. 1890, Bibliotheque nationale de France Theodore Dubois.jpg
Théodore Dubois, c. 1890, Bibliothèque nationale de France

François-Clément Théodore Dubois (24 August 1837 – 11 June 1924) was a French composer, organist, and music teacher.



Théodore Dubois was born in Rosnay in Marne. He studied first under Louis Fanart (the choirmaster at Reims Cathedral) and later at the Paris Conservatoire under Ambroise Thomas. He won the Prix de Rome in 1861. In 1868, he became choirmaster at the Church of the Madeleine, and in 1871 took over from César Franck as choirmaster at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde. In 1877, Dubois returned to the Church of the Madeleine, succeeding Camille Saint-Saëns as organist there. From 1871 he taught at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Pierre de Bréville, Guillaume Couture, Gabrielle Ferrari, Gustave Doret, Paul Dukas, Achille Fortier, Xavier Leroux, Albéric Magnard, Édouard Risler, Guy Ropartz, Spyridon Samaras, and Florent Schmitt.

Dubois in 1905 Theodore Dubois 1905.png
Dubois in 1905

Dubois was director of the Conservatoire from 1896 (succeeding Thomas on the latter's death) to 1905, continuing his predecessor's intransigently conservative regime. [1] The music of Auber, Halévy and especially Meyerbeer was regarded as the correct model for students, and old French music such as that of Rameau and modern music, including that of Wagner were kept rigorously out of the curriculum. [2] Dubois was unremittingly hostile to Maurice Ravel who, when a Conservatoire student, did not conform to the faculty's anti-modernism, [1] and in 1902 Dubois unavailingly forbade Conservatoire students to attend performances of Debussy's ground-breaking new opera, Pelléas et Mélisande . [3] In June 1905 he was forced to bring his planned retirement forward after a public scandal caused by the faculty's blatant attempt to stop Ravel winning the Prix de Rome. [4] Gabriel Fauré was appointed to succeed Dubois as director, with a brief from the French government to modernise the institution. [5]

Although he wrote many religious works, Dubois had considerable hopes for a successful career in opera. His fascination with Near-Eastern subjects led to the composition to his first staged work, La guzla de l'émir, and his first four-act opera, Aben-Hamet, which broke no new ground. His other large-scale opera, Xavière, is a wildly dramatic tale set in the rural Auvergne. The story revolves around a widowed mother who plots to kill her daughter, Xavière, with the help of her fiancé's father to gain the daughter's inheritance. However, Xavière survives the attack with the help of a priest, and the opera finishes with a conventional happy ending.

The music of Dubois also includes ballets, oratorios and three symphonies. His best known work is the oratorio Les sept paroles du Christ ("The Seven Last Words of Christ" [1867]), which continues to be given an occasional airing; his Toccata in G (1889), for the organ, is a recital staple, by no means solely in France. The rest of his large output has almost entirely disappeared from view. He has had a more lasting influence in teaching, with his theoretical works Traité de contrepoint et de fugue (on counterpoint and fugue) and Traité d'harmonie théorique et pratique (on harmony) still being sometimes used today.

Selected works



Vocal works

Orchestral works

Chamber music

Other compositions


Recording selection


See also

See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#Théodore Dubois.

Notes and sources


  1. 1 2 Nichols, p. 35; and Orenstein, p. 26
  2. Nectoux, p. 269
  3. Orledge, p. 65
  4. Nectoux, p. 267
  5. Nectoux, p. 268


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