Composers Datebook®

Arnaud's after-the-fact Olympic tune

Composer's Datebook - July 24, 2023


The composer of this familiar theme was born on today’s date in 1904 in Lyon, France. He was christened “Noel” Arnaud, but is better known as “Leo” Arnaud, the name he adopted after emigrating to the U.S.A.  Arnaud studied music in his native France with two of its leading composers, Vincent d’Indy and Maurice Ravel. In the 1930s, Arnaud settled in Hollywood, where he churned out scores for everything from Blondie Goes Latin to The Ice Follies of 1939. The high point of Arnaud’s cinematic career was an Oscar nomination for his work as an arranger for the 1964 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Some years earlier, Hollywood Bowl conductor Felix Slatkin commissioned Arnaud to write some music for a 1958 LP sonic spectacular designed to show off the new “stereophonic” recording process. The album was titled Charge! and featured military style fanfares and suites, and included a cut entitled Bugler’s Dream.

In 1968, when ABC television was looking for a musical theme for its Olympic coverage, it chose Bugler’s Dream. By 1988, when the NBC network secured TV rights for the Olympics, Arnaud’s theme had become the instantly recognizable signature theme for the games.

Music Played in Today's Program

Leo Arnaud (1904 - 1991) Olympic Theme Cleveland Symphonic Winds; Frederick Fennell, cond. Telarc 80099

On This Day


  • 1803 - French opera composer Adolph-Charles Adam, in Paris

  • 1880 - Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch, in Geneva

  • 1904 - French-born American composer and arranger Leo (Noël) Arnaud, in Lyon

  • 1922 - American composer Leo Kraft, in New York City


  • 1739 - Italian composer Benedetto Marcello, in Brescia

  • 1971 - British composer Alan Rawsthorne, in Cambridge, England


  • 1926 - Hindemith: Concert Music for Winds, Op. 4, in Donaueschingen, Germany, with Hermann Scherchen conducting

  • 1938 - R. Strauss: opera, "Friedenstag" (Peace Day), in Munich at the National Theater, Clemens Krauss conducting, with vocal soloists Hans Hotter (Commandant) and Viorca Ursuleac (Maria);

  • 1964 - Ginastera: opera, "Don Rodrigo," at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires

  • 1983 - Elisabetta Brusa: "Favole" (Fables) for chamber orchestra, by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, George Hanson conducting

  • 1995 - Michael Torke: opera "Strawberry Fields," at Cooperstown, N.Y., by the Glimmerglass Opera, Stewart Robinson conducting


  • 1838 - Mendelssohn finishes in Berlin his String Quartet in D, Op. 44, no. 1; In a letter dated July 30 that year, he writes to the violinist Ferdinand David: "I have just finished my third Quartet, in D Major, and like it very much. I hope it may please you as well. I rather think it will, since it is more spirited and seems to me likely to be more grateful to the players than the others."

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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