Julius Arnost Wilhelm Fucík was a Czech composer and also a successful conductor and bandleader. His output was prolific, and as most of his work was for military bands, he is sometimes known as the Bohemian Sousa. In 1897 he was the bandmaster for the 86th Infantry Regiment based in Sarajevo and it was at this time that he wrote what is undoubtedly his best-known work, the Entry of the Gladiators – a title inspired by his interest in Roman history.
Now the tune is universally associated with the appearance of the clowns in a circus performance. But its popularity stems not from Fucík’s original arrangement, but from a 1910 transcription by the Canadian composer Louis-Phillipe Laurendeau (who named the piece Thunder and Blazes). Laurendeau’s version sold extremely well across Canada and North America, but Fucík, it seems, did not receive any royalties. His music publishing business suffered greatly under the privations of the First World War and, as a result, Fucík’s health deteriorated and he died, aged only 44, in 1916.
As well as being a composer and conductor Fucík had also held an orchestral post as a bassoonist, so it seems fitting that his music should be arranged for four bassoons.