Composers Datebook®

Reznicek of the Mounties?

Composers Datebook - 20231216


Nostalgic fans of old-time radio and TV shows will have no trouble recognizing the overture to Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek’s comic opera Donna Diana as the signature theme for Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, an adventure series set in the far North that chronicled the exploits of a Royal Canadian Mountie and his loyal husky, Yukon King.

This music, however, had its real birth on today’s date in 1894 at the New German Theater of Prague, where Reznicek’s opera had its first performance. Reznicek wrote other operas, but Donna Diana was his one international hit. Gustav Mahler thought highly of it and conducted its premiere in Vienna in 1904.

In 1932, Reznicek and another famous composer, Richard Strauss, formed an international society for composers. When Reznicek resisted a Nazi takeover of that organization in 1942, the 82-year-old was punished by having his music confiscated by the Propaganda Ministry. His death three years later amid the bombed-out rubble of Berlin was a sad one. Reznicek died in 1945 of typhoid fever aggravated by starvation.

It was a tragic end for a composer best known for such lighthearted music!

Music Played in Today's Program

Emil von Reznicek (1860-1945) Donna Diana Overture; Symphony Nova Scotia; Georg Tintner, cond. CBC 5167

On This Day


  • 1770 - German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, in Bonn; The date is not certain, but his birthday has been traditionally celebrated on this date; Beethoven was baptized the following day (Dec. 17, 1770);

  • 1775 - French opera composer François Boieldieu, in Rouen;

  • 1847 - French composer (of Irish parentage) Augusta Holmès (Holmes), in Paris;

  • 1882 - Hungarian composer Zoltán Kódaly, in Kecskemét;

  • 1899 - British playwright and songwriter Sir Noel Coward, in Teddington (Middlesex);

  • 1932 - Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, in Moscow;


  • 1921 - French composer and pianist Camille Saint-Saëns, age 86, in Algiers;


  • 1877 - Bruckner: Symphony No. 3 (2nd version), in Vienna, with the composer conducting;

  • 1893 - Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World"), at Carnegie Hall, by the New York Philharmonic, Anton Seidl conducting; This was the "official " premiere (a public dress rehearsal had taken place the previous afternoon);

  • 1894 - Emil von Reznicek: opera "Donna Diana," in Prague;

  • 1921 - Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3, by the Chicago Symphony conducted by Frederick Stock, with the composer as soloist;

  • 1938 - Copland: "An Outdoor Overture," in New York City;

  • 1946 - Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 3, in Moscow, by the Beethoven Quartet;


  • 1718 - J.S. Bach examines the organ at the Paulinerkirche in Leipzig;

  • 1944 - American bandleader and trombonist Glenn Miller, age 40, dies in an air crash near England;

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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.

About Composers Datebook®