Reznicek, Emil Nikolaus von


Reznicek, Emil Nikolaus von

Der Sieger — Ein symphonisch-satyrisches Zeitbild, for alto solo, choir and grand orchestra

SKU: 1862 Category:


Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek
(b. 4 May 1860 in Vienna, d. 2 August 1945 in Berlin

Der Sieger

Symphonisch-satyrisches Zeitbild
für großes Orchester, Alt-Solo und Chor

Admission right from the start: I like the Overture to Donna Diana by Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek because of the humorous Haydnesque gesture at the beginning (similar to the one used by Beethoven at the start of the finale of his first symphony) and its irresistible élan vital reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony or the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Curious to learn more about an artist whom reception history has reduced to a “one-work” composer, I accepted the offer from Musikproduktion Höflich to provide a preface for Der Sieger (The Winner), composed and premiered in Berlin in 1913 just before the outbreak of World War I. I expected something characteristic of the Wilhelminian era, something swashbuckling, perhaps a counterpiece to Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss (itself an updated version of Beethoven’s Eroica “with lots of horns that are always a yardstick of heroism” as the composer admitted). I purchased a CD of the work with the fabulous Michail Jurowski conducting the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne (available on the cpo label) and was in for a great surprise. Reznicek’s work seems to poke fun at heroism by redefining the term. Der Sieger is program music and stands in the tradition of the Lisztian symphonic poem; its subtitle “symphonic-satirical time portrait” already hints at something subversive. My guide in listening to the work was Eckardt van den Hoogen’s informative and witty booklet-essay “A Domestic Winner? E. N. von Reznicek and Musical Cunning”—a piece of critical writing that far exceeds in insight the usual program notes in CD booklets. (I recommend it highly and also the CD that it accompanies; much in the following is informed by Van den Hoogen and the rendition.)

Born in Vienna in 1860 into an aristocratic family of Czech ancestry (his father was a high-ranking officer in the army of the Habsburg Empire, his mother daughter of a Romanian princess), Reznicek studied law and music in Graz, but soon decided that music would be his calling: studies with Reinecke and Jadassohn in Leipzig rounded off his musical education. He held conducting positions in various European cities (none for very long), including Zürich, Prague, Berlin, Weimar, Mannheim, and Warsaw. His greatest success was the opera Donna Diana (premiered in Prague in 1894). His life span coincided almost entirely with that of Richard Strauss (1864-1949) whose success with tone poems and operas eclipsed Reznicek’s by far. They were friends, but the relationship must have been ambivalent, and the work under consideration here offers some tantalizing clues. In her readable rather than reliable account of her father’s life of 1960, Gegen den Strom: Leben und Werk von E. N. von Reznicek (122-23), Felicitas von Reznicek has blamed mean-spirited critics for spreading the rumor that Der Sieger was intended as a parody of Richard Strauss, but the music and annotations in the score do seem to support a reading of the work as taking satirical aim at Reznicek’s younger colleague.


Read full preface > HERE

Score No.



Repertoire Explorer


Choir/Voice & Orchestra


210 x 297 mm