Théodore Dubois

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 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


  • La prova di un'opera seria, (unpublished, composed in Rome, 1863).
  • La guzla de l'émir, opéra comique (1 act, J. Barbier & M. Carré), f.p. 30 April 1873, Théâtre de l'Athénée, Paris.
  • Le pain bis, opéra comique (1 act, A. Brunswick & A.R. de Beauplan), f.p. 26/27 February 1879, Opéra-Comique (Théâtre Favart), Paris.
  • L'enlèvement de Proserpine, scène lyrique (1 act, P. Collin), f.p. 1879.
  • Aben-Hamet, opéra (4 acts, L. Détroyat & A. de Lauzières), f.p. 16 December 1884, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris.
  • Xavière, idylle dramatique (3 acts, L. Gallet, after F. Fabre), f.p. 26 November 1895, Opéra Comique (Théâtre Lyrique), Paris.
  • Miguela, opéra (3 acts) (Originally unperformed, except prélude and second act tableau from Act 3, concert perf. 23 February 1896, Paris.) f.p. 18 May 1916, Opéra, Paris.
  • La fiancée d'Abydos (unperformed)
  • Le florentin (unperformed)


  • La Korrigane, (ballet by Louis Mérante), f.p. 12 January 1880, Opéra, Paris.
  • La Farandole, (ballet by Louis Mérante), f.p. 14 December 1883, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Vocal works

  • Les Sept Paroles du Christ, (1867) oratorio dedicated to Abbot Jean-Gaspard (1797-1871) curé of La Madeleine.
  • Le Paradis Perdu, oratorio (1878 - Prix de la ville de Paris)
  • Numerous cantatas, including: L'enlèvement de Proserpine, Hylas, Bergerette; Les Vivants et les Morts
  • Masses and religious compositions

Orchestral works

  • Marche héroïque de Jeanne d'Arc
  • Fantaisie triomphale for organ & orchestra
  • Hymne nuptial
  • Méditation, Prières for strings, oboe, harp, & organ
  • Concerto-Capriccio for piano & orchestra
  • Concerto pour piano n° 2
  • Concerto pour violon
  • Notre-Dame de la Mer, poème symphonique
  • Adomis, poème symphonique
  • Symphonie française (1908)
  • Symphonie n°2
  • Symphonie n°3
  • Fantasietta (1917)
  • Suite for Piano and String Orchestra in F minor (1917)

Chamber music

  • Cantabile (or Andante Cantabile) for viola or cello and piano (1886)
  • Hymne nuptial for violin, viola, cello, harp and organ
  • Quintet for oboe, violin, viola, cello and piano
  • Terzettino for flute, viola and harp (1905)
  • Piano Quartet in A minor (1907)
  • Dectet for string and wind quintets
  • Nonetto for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, 2 violins, viola, cello and double bass

Other compositions

  • Piano works : Chœur et Danse des Lutins, Six Poèmes Sylvestres, etc.
  • Numerous pieces for organ and for harmonium.
  • Douze Pièces pour orgue ou piano-pédalier (1889), including the famous Toccata in G (no. 3)
  • Douze Pièces Nouvelles pour orgue ou piano-pédalier (1893), including In Paradisum (no. 9)
  • Deux Petites Pièces pour orgue ou harmonium (1910) : Petite pastorale champenoise et Prélude
  • 42 Pièces pour orgue sans pédales ou harmonium (1925)


  • Dubois, Théodore (1889). Notes et études d'harmonie pour servir de supplément au traité de H. Reber. Paris: Heugel.
  • Dubois, Théodore (1901). Traité de contrepoint et de fugue. Paris: Heugel.
  • Dubois, Théodore (1921). Traité d'harmonie théorique et pratique. Paris: Heugel.
  • Dubois, Théodore (1921). Réalisations des basses et chants du Traité d'harmonie par Théodore Dubois. Paris: Heugel.

Recording selection

  • Théodore Dubois, Organistes de Paris à la Belle Époque, Vol 1 (2004), Helga Schauerte-Maubouet, Organ Merklin Cathedral in Moulins(F) Syrius 141382.
  • Theodore Dubois, The Romantic Piano Concerto #60, 2013 Concerto-capriccioso in C minor; Piano Concerto #2 and Suite for Piano and String Orchestra, Cédric Tiberghien (pianist), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Manze-conductor,Hyperion 67931


See also

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

Notes and sources


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


  • Nichols, Roger (2011). Ravel. New Haven, US and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10882-8.
  • Orenstein, Arbie (1991) [1975]. Ravel: Man and Musician. Mineola, US: Dover. ISBN 978-0-486-26633-6.
  • Orledge, Robert (1982). Debussy and the Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-22807-7.


  • Sadie, Stanley (Ed.) (1994) [1992]. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. vol. 1, A–D, chpt: "Dubois, (François-Clément) Théodore" by Richard Langham Smith. New York: MacMillan. ISBN 0-935859-92-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Imbert, I. (1892). Nouveaux profils de musiciens. Paris.
  • Tiersot, J. (1918). Un demi-siècle de musique française. Paris.
  • Widor, M. (1924). Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Théodore Dubois. Paris.
  • Landormy, P. (1948) [1943]. La musique française de Franck à Debussy. Paris.
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