Julius Fučík (composer)

Julius Ernst Wilhelm Fučík (18 July 187215 September 1916) was a Czech composer and conductor of military bands.

Fučík spent most of his life as the leader of military brass bands. He was a prolific composer, with over 300 marches, polkas and waltzes to his name. As most of his work was for military bands he is sometimes known as the "Bohemian Sousa".

Today his marches are still played as patriotic music in the Czech Republic. However his world wide reputation rests on one work, his opus 68 march the Entrance of the Gladiators (Vjezd gladiátorů), which is universally recognized as the theme tune of clowns in a circus. (This march is also known by the title Thunder and Blazes.) Despite being so widely known, the tune's original name and composer are relatively obscure.

Also The Florentiner March, which isn't as popular as Entrance of the Gladiators, is still a great march choice for many Wind Ensembles.

Fučík was the uncle of the journalist Julius Fučík, murdered by the Nazi regime.


Fučík was born in Prague on July 18th, 1872 when Prague was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a student he learned to play the bassoon, violin and various percussion instruments, later studying composition under Antonín Dvořák.

In 1891 he joined the 49th Austro-Hungarian Regiment as a military musician. He initially played in Krems by the Danube under Josef Wagner and later joined Karl Komzak's military band in Vienna. In 1895 Fučík left the army to take up a position as second bassoonist at the German Theatre in Prague. A year later he became the principal conductor of the Prague City Orchestra as well as the conductor of the Danica Choir in the Croatian city of Sisak. During this time, Fučík wrote a number of chamber music pieces, mostly for clarinet and bassoon.

In 1897 he rejoined the army as the bandmaster for the 86th Infantry Regiment in Sarajevo. Shortly after, he wrote his most famous piece the Einzug der Gladiatoren or Entrance of the Gladiators (also known by the title Thunder and Blazes). Fučík's interest in Roman history led him to name the march as he did. The tune is now universally associated with the appearance of the clowns in a circus performance. In its circus context, the tune is also known by the title Thunder and Blazes.

In 1900 Fučík's band was moved to Budapest where Fučík found there were several other military bands ready to play his compositions, but he also faced more competition to get noticed. Having more musicians at his disposal, Fučík began to experiment with transcriptions of orchestral works.

In 1909 Fučík moved again, returning to Bohemia where he became the director the orchestra of the 92nd Infantry Regiment in Terezin. At the time, the orchestra was one of the finest in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Fučík toured with them giving concerts in Prague and Berlin to audiences of over 10,000 people.

In 1913 Fučík married and settled in Berlin where he started his own band and a music publishing company, Apollo Verlag, to market his compositions. His fortunes began to wane with the outbreak of the First World War. Under the privations of the war, Fučík's business failed and his health suffered. On September 25th, 1916, Julius Fučík died near Berlin at the age of 44.


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