Julius Fucik

Julius Ernest William Fucik was born in 1872 into a musical family in Prague, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia after 1918 – now The Czech Republic) where he studied at the Prague Conservatory with Bennewitz (violin), L. Milde (bassoon) and Antonin Dvorak (composition). He was an outstanding student at the Conservatory, not only as a talented bassoon player but also as a promising composer in the class of the already famous composer Antonin Dvorak.

He graduated at the Conservatory in summer 1891 and awaited military service. At the age of nineteen he entered service and began playing bassoon and drums with the 49th Austro-Hungarian Infantry Band at Krems, a small town on the Danube, west of Vienna. His bandmaster at the time was Josef Franz Wagner, the composer of the well known march "Under the Double Eagle". It was Wagner who developed Fucik’s talent in the field of popular music, and Fucik became famous as a bassoon soloist in the regimental orchestra. In the summer of 1894 he returned to Prague to play in the orchestras of the German Theatre and the Ethnographical Exhibition. He also wrote all the music for a woodwind trio of two clarinets and a bassoon, which he founded. Thereafter he went to the Theatre Orchestra in Zagreb.

In August 1897 the bandmaster of the 86th Infantry regiment in Sarajevo died. Fucik went immediately to Sarajevo, created a favourable impression and was chosen from 82 candidates. Thus began his career as a military bandmaster, and it was during this time that he composed his famous march "Entry of the Gladiators" (long since adopted throughout the world as the circus march).

His regiment was transferred to Budapest in 1900, where the garrison had nine bands, which competed with each other for public approval, and also challenged composers to produce worthwhile band music. Fucik fully developed his talent, and it was here that he wrote his concert overture "Marinerella" and a march entitled "The Rose of Tuscany" which later, under the title "Florintiner", made him famous. With a band of forty to fifty players and an ever-increasing repertoire the years in Budapest were happy ones.

Four months later he was named bandmaster of the 92nd Infantry Regiment in Theresienstadt, Bohemia. There were 200 candidates for the position but Fucik was immediately accepted. Back in his own country with an excellent band which played in Prague every Sunday; these years with his military band were climaxed with a series of concerts in Berlin attended at times by 10,000 people.

He was glad to be in the vicinity of his native Prague and had looked forward to performing there. His joy did not last long however – the Prague military bandmasters opposed the successful performances by his band in Prague and the Ministry of Defence banned any further concerts in the city.

Fucik was a prolific composer with nearly 400 works to his credit. He wrote operettas, chamber music, masses, songs, waltzes, overtures, instrumental solos and over 100 marches - several of which are among the finest ever written. He understood the problems of a military band better than any other composer of his time and he made brilliant use of all the shades of the instrumental palette. He died in Germany in 1916 and was originally buried there - his body was later taken "home" and he was laid to rest in Prague.