Julius Fučík

Today in Mailbox we reveal the identity of November’s mystery man and announce the names of the four winners who will receive Radio Prague souvenirs for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: Tracy Andreotti, Colin Law, Henrik Klemetz, Yuri Nikolaev, Barbara Ziemba, Gordon Martindale, David Eldridge, Charles Konecny, Yukiko Maki, Ian Morrison, Uday Nayak.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Today as promised we’re going to reveal the name of the composer of this piece of music.

This question proved more challenging than our usual monthly quizzes. The share of incorrect answers was unusually high, ranging from Karel Zich, Bohuslav Martinů and Antonín Dvořák to Ludwig Van Beethoven or Milena Jesenská. So let’s hear some of the correct answers, beginning with this e-mail from Tracy Andreotti from St. Louis:

“Well, I had to search my sheet music for this one, but the name of the tune is ‘The Entrance of the Gladiators’ and it is by the composer Julius Fučík. Here in the States, it's often called the ‘Thunder and Blazes’ march, and it's often used in circuses, to signal the entry of clowns... I only came to know the original title a couple of years ago, while playing in a band for a circus. The music director had arranged it, and I was surprised to see ‘Julius Fučík’ listed as the composer. Could it be, I wondered, that the author of ‘Notes form the Gallows’ was also a prolific composer of marches? Turns out that the composer Julius Fučík was the uncle of the journalist Julius Fučík! Thanks again for making me think.”

Colin Law from New Zealand sent in one of his thorough answers:

“[Fučík’s] Opus 68 march ‘Vjezd gladiátorů’ (Entry of the Gladiators), is also known as ‘Einzug der Gladiatoren’, ‘Thunder and Blazes’, and ‘Screamer’. It was originally called ‘Grande Marche Chromatique’ but Julius changed the title later as he was inspired by the ancient Roman gladiatorial combats...

“Fučík’s date of death is variously stated as 15 or 25 September 1916 and the Wikipedia internet entry shows both. Internet sources also fail to agree on whether he died in Prague or died near Berlin and was subsequently disinterred and reburied in Prague. This is consistent with the fact that Julius Fučík’s name and details of his life are much less well-known than his Opus 68 march ‘Entry of the Gladiators’.”

Henrik Klemetz listens to Radio Prague in Sweden:

“Entrance of the Gladiators, Vjezd gladiátorů, a march written by ‘the Bohemian Sousa’, Julius Fučík, at the end of the 19th century. An uptempo version known as Thunders and Blazes is often heard as an intro or a cue for clowns to enter the circus stage.”

Also from Sweden, Yuri Nikolaev wrote:

“Bohemian (present-day Czech) bandmaster and composer Julius Fučík studied composition with Antonín Dvořák and was a bassoonist in a number of opera orchestras. Fučík was bandmaster of the 86th and 92nd Austrian Regiments. Two of his most popular marches are ‘Entry of the Gladiators’ and ‘The Florentiner,’ Opus 214.”

Barbara Ziemba follows Mailbox in Illinois:

“He was a very learned music student who played the bassoon, violin and many of the percussion instruments. One of his very famous teachers was Antonín Dvořák, under whom he studied composition. He was a member of the 49th Austro-Hungarian Regiment, his position being a military musician. He left the army to pursue his career in music, both composing and conducting. In 1897 he rejoined the army and it was at that time he wrote ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’. For a period of time he resided in Budapest and upon his return to Prague he became the bandmaster of the 92nd Infantry Regiment in Theresienstadt, which was proclaimed one of the finest of the empire at the time.”

Gordon Martindale writes from the UK:

“The man who wrote the march, ‘Entrance of the Gladiarors’, was Julius Ernst Wilhelm Fučík. He was born in Prague on 18-07-1872, and died in Prague on 15-09-1916. His life was devoted to Military Music, leading many Army Bands in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During his career he wrote 300, marches, polkas, and waltzes. His marches are still played in the Czech Republic as Patriotic Music.”

David Eldridge from the UK wrote:

“[Fučík’s] career in music saw him posted to Krems, Vienna, Prague, Sisak (Croatia), Sarajevo, Budapest and Theresienstadt. Fučík married in 1913 and settled in Berlin where he had a business but the physical stress of the First World War caused his health to fail and he died in Berlin on 25th September 1916 at the age of 44. He is buried in Vyšehradský hřbitov, Prague. “

Charles Konecny is our regular contributor from Ohio:

“If you have ever been to the circus then you have heard this march. Also, it makes for a good ‘ring tone’. Fučík was another of those great European composers that flourished in those days. It is too bad that WW1 took its toll on his health so that he died at only 44 years old. So my hat is off to another Czech who made his mark in music history. And he had a real man's mustache... Send in the Clowns.”

Yukiko Maki listens to our programmes in Japan:

“I have heard his famous piece of music titled ‘Entry of Gladiators’ many times, but I have never known it was composed by a Czech composer. I cannot remember where and in what situations I heard this music, but it strikes a chord right away because of this unique and comical melody.”

Julius Fučík
Ian Morrison listens in China:

“The man who composed the famous piece of music was Julius Fučík. I'm certain that lots of listeners were in the same situation as me, listening to that piece of music many times and knowing the tune very well but not having a clue what it was called. Well, with just a day to go, the penny finally dropped and I'm delighted to be sending you this answer.”

Uday Nayak writes from India:

“I'm happy finally that I found out the answer. Thanks for the hint, otherwise it'd not be my cup of tea. I actually didn't know about Julius Ernst Wilhelm Fučík, but by asking such questions you provide good opportunity to meet Czech greatness.”

Thank you for your answers. This month’s winners are Grant Skinner and Gordon Martindale both from the UK, Yukiko Maki from Japan and Barbara Ziemba from the United States. My congratulations and your parcels will be mailed first thing on Monday. Of course, I won’t leave you without a new quiz question.

In December we are asking you to send us the name of the Austrian author interested in mysticism and the occult who spent two decades of his life in Prague around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. His most famous novel takes place in and around Prague’s old Jewish Ghetto.

Please send your answers to [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague by the end of December. Also, I hope you’ll understand that as of next month we will be reducing the number of winners from four back to one. We hope that it won’t put you off sending in your answers. Many thanks for tuning in today and please join me again next week if you can for a regular edition of Mailbox. Until then, bye-bye.