April 2012

Entrance of the Gladiators (aka "Thunder and Blazes")

by Julius Fučík

Julius Fučík (pronounced few-CHEEK) (be careful with the pronunciation of this one) was born in Prague (pronounced PRAHG) in 1872. Prague, at the time, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but is now the capital city of the Czech Republic. Fučík wrote over 400 different marches, polkas, and waltzes, but his work is not really that well known. Only one work of his is universally known.

In 1897, Fučík wrote a military march that he originally called "Grande Marche Chromatique". This is due to the chromatic scales (scales consisting of all 12 notes within an octave), particularly in the beginning. But due to his personal interest in the Roman Empire, he changed the name to "Entrance of the Gladiators".

A "gladiator" was a trained fighter (it also implied someone who was armed, usually with a sword). Over 2,000 years ago in Rome, gladiators would provide entertainment in large colesiums by fighting wild animals, condemned criminals, or even other gladiators. This march was supposed to represent the excitement of the event, much like modern sporting events.

This piece would probably not be that popular today, had it not been for an enterprising Canadian composer named Louis-Phillipe Laurendeau (pronounced law-REN-dow). Laurendeau created an arrangement for "Entrance of the Gladiators" that he called "Thunder and Blazes" in 1910. He sold this arrangement throughout North America, and it quickly became the staple march to use in circuses, particularly at the introduction of the clowns. Its adoption became so widespread that this march is almost universally associated with the circus (and particularly clowns).

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

I sincerely have absolutely no idea when I first heard this piece. It is intrinsically tied to the circus, so I'm sure I heard it in that capacity somehow. I can't remember ever not knowing this piece, even at a very young age.


And here it is. Picture the entering gladiators (or, more likely, the tumbling clowns). Enjoy!

Entrance of the Gladiators (aka "Thunder and Blazes") by Julius Fučík (2:35)

For those interested, this recording was performed by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel.

Jon's Interpretation:

This piece is just fun. That's all there is to it. Marches as a whole just get your body moving. It's probably this piece's association with the circus that makes it so fun, or maybe circuses are more fun because of this piece. Who knows?

I enjoy listening to this whole piece when I can. Often, just the first few measures will be used as a little clip for something, but I really enjoy the low brass section (being a trombone player myself).

Extra Credit:

Here is a piano score for the piece:

Piano Score for Entrance of the Gladiators (aka "Thunder and Blazes") by Julius Fučík

It was hard for me to decide on extra credit for this one. This piece can be found everywhere. But as I have a particular affinity for The Simpsons, here's an amusing clip from "Marge on the Lam". One of the things that amuses me the most about this clip is that Homer continues singing long after the joke has been established. Enjoy!