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DUBOIS, Théodore (1837-1924)

Théodore Dubois (1837-1924) was a gifted pupil, whose brilliant studies at the Paris Conservatoire were rewarded by several first prizes in the classes of Marmontel (piano), Benoist (organ), Bazin (harmony) and Thomas (composition), and then the Prix de Rome (1861). On his return from a curtailed stay in Italy, Dubois began a regular and patient ascent. He was appointed professor of harmony at the Conservatoire in 1871, professor of composition there ten years later, and finally director from 1896 until his retirement in 1905. Simultaneously he devoted himself to church music, notably as organist of La Madeleine from 1877 to 1896. He produced a large corpus of very successful religious works, the most striking example of which is his oratorio Les Sept Paroles du Christ(1867). He was also honoured by official milieus, and became a member of the Institut de France in 1894. His reputation suffered posthumously from his having held that privileged position. The persistent misunderstanding with regard to his departure from the Conservatoire is, in that respect, significant: coinciding with the scandal of Ravel’s ultimate failure to obtain the Prix de Rome, it was for a long time seen as a bitter defeat for academic circles. And yet while remaining faithful to his ideals of clarity and respect for tradition, Dubois was aware of the advances made in his time, as is borne out by his membership of the Société Nationale de Musique. Eclectic in its inspiration, his œuvre is vast and varied, approaching every genre and identifying as much with César Franck and Schumann as with Brahms or Saint-Saëns.