Julius Arnost Wilhelm Fučík (Czech pronunciation: [ˈjuːlɪjus ˈfutʃiːk]) (18 July 1872 ? 15 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 became 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 worldwide reputation rests on one work: his Opus 68 march, the Entrance of the Gladiators (Vjezd gladiátorů), which is universally recognized, often under the title Thunder and Blazes, as one of the most popular theme tunes for circus clowns.
Another composition, The Florentiner March, composed as a grand march for an opera never completed, is not as popular as Entrance of the Gladiators, but it is regularly performed and recorded by wind ensembles.
Fučík was the uncle of the journalist Julius Fučík, executed by the Nazi regime.
Fučík was born in Prague on 18 July 1872 when Prague was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a student, he learned to play the bassoon with Ludwig Milde, violin with Antonín Bennewitz, 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 based in Sarajevo. Shortly after, he wrote his most famous piece, the Einzug der Gladiatoren or Entrance of the Gladiators. 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 nine regimental 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 bandmaster of the 92nd Infantry Regiment in Theresienstadt. At the time, the band 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, the Prager Tonkünstler-Orchester, 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 15 September 1916, Julius Fučík died near Berlin at the age of 44. He is buried in Prague.
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