This is not the first all-Fučik CD but it is the first MWI has reviewed.
In fact I found only one alternative (which I have not heard): Orfeo
C147861A from the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Václav Neumann. The Orfeo
runs two minutes short of an hour compared with 80 minutes from Järvi and
Chandos. Fučik's may not be a household name, even in moderately well
informed circles, but he is another of those one-work composers. He wrote
Entry of the Gladiators
- a piece associated in a rather tired and
hackneyed way with the big top, high-wire artists, strong-men, lion-tamers
and all the non-PC bombast of the circus, Rupert and 'Circus
Boy'. In fact the piece was inspired by Fučik's admiration for
the gladiator passages in Henryk Sienkiewicz's 1895 novel Quo
. Also we know only a small part of the piece if that is our
The music is of the light middle-European denomination. Fučik's
Overture - the longest piece here at 11 minutes -
storms along with an ear towards what one hears in Smetana and
Dvorak's Slavonic Dances
. It has a soft balletic centre with
much Arabian exotica and elegant harp and woodwind. The recording very
pleasingly renders the punch and the depth of the orchestral image with the
engineers having the measure of the subtle tambourine. Onkel Teddy
is referred to as a 'Marche pittoresque' and is reminiscent of
the opulence of Friml and Romberg. Brash and bombast fall away for the Waltz
but not for long. This is a skilled, gentle and
affectionate thing in the tracks marked out by the 'Waltz
kings'. Nice that Chandos have presented this piece in five tracks.
The episodes lead us far from the dance floor but inevitably bring us back
there in grandiloquence. It works well as a concert piece. The Die
March sports some breathy piccolos and a couple
of high-spirited village anvils at 1:13 clinking away in tribute to the
village blacksmiths of the title. Fučik had a sense of humour. Speaking of
which Der alte Brummbar
has the grumbling bassoon - Fučik's
own instrument - centre-stage amid a floating waltz milieu. Entry of the
romps along - one can almost see Järvi with his elbows out
exhorting the 'troops'. This recording reminds us that this
signature piece is more than just the 'circus' element.
is another 'Concert Overture' romp but with
some reflective alpine poetry along the way. Florentiner
"Grande marcia italiana". Not for the first time in this
collection there are trumpet parts redolent of Tchaikovsky's
opens with symphonic
intensity. This forms what amounts to a micro-prelude to an elegant,
nostalgic and fine-featured waltz; quite a discovery. The stomping and
crashing March, Hercegovac
meets, with panache, all aspects of the
specification for the form as does Die Regimentskinder
. In the case
of the latter it has more of a Viennese accent. The waltz
or Little Ballerinas
is in five tracks with
much delicacy juxtaposed with crashing oompah exuberance (tr. 16). The
is quite an early composition in this collection - it
doffs the plumed hat towards Sousa. We end with the concert march Unter
. This boasts some intricate and tricky rhythmic
transitions and collisions. Again this is a comparatively early piece in a
collection that spans 1899-1912.
As Nigel Simeone's more than helpful notes tell us, after years of
immersion in the military band movement, Fučik moved to Berlin and there set
up his own band. He died young in 1916. From those years come the 1915
Funeral march Pax Vobis
- it would have been nice to have included
this at the expense of one of the other pieces. It seems that during those
Berlin years he also embarked on an opera Osud
(as had Janacek) but
this remained unfinished as did an earlier operetta Nachsaison
which only nine numbers were completed.
Fučik generously and idiomatically surveyed and done in crashing
Another review ...
Reviewed on SACD and as 24/96 download from theclassicalshop.net
(also available as mp3 and 16-bit lossless downloads, with pdf booklet).
If you know anything by Fučík, it’s likely to be the
ubiquitous Einzug der Gladiatoren (Entry of the Gladiators), a work
inspired by his reading Quo Vadis. From his very large output, with
opus numbers to match those of the Strauss family – actually over 400 works
– there’s a Warner Apex budget-price competitor for some but not all of those
on the Chandos recording: the Florentine March, Op.214, Marinarella
Overture, Op.215, Donausagen Waltz, Op.233, Entry of the Gladiators,
Op.68, Der alte Brummbär, Op.210, Winterstürme,
Op.184 and Hercegovac, Op.235, all appear on 0927487522 in performances
by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Vaclav Neumann in the early
1970s, with Dvořák Rhapsody, Op.45/1.
Otherwise you will find Fučík’s music on anthologies, as on a recent
Marco Polo release of Contemporaries of the Strauss Family, Volume
2, containing Regimentskinder and Um Mitternacht, with music
by Hellmesberger, Ivanovici, Schrammel, Suppé, Zeller and others (8.225366
[75:51] – available as a download in mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf
eclassical.com). Sample/stream/download from Qobuz,
also with booklet.
That Marco Polo recording comes from Fučík’s fellow-countrymen, the Czech
Chamber Philharmonic Pardubice, conducted by John Georgiadis, erstwhile leader
of the LSO, who has made something of a speciality of conducting the music
of the Strauss family and contemporaries. (Volumes 1 and 3 of the Marco Polo
series are on 8.225365 and 970228, the latter download only at present.)
There’s also a budget-price Alto release of Georgiadis conducting music by
Eduard, Johann I and Johann II Strauss with the LSO on ALC1070 and of the
same team plus Johann III, son of Eduard, also with the LSO, at budget price
on Chandos CHAN7128
If you like the overtures, waltzes and marches of the Strauss family, you
should enjoy those by Fučík, too. There’s a hint of Sousa, too, in the
marches. There’s a story – perhaps apocryphal – that he was once banned from
Prague for being too popular.
The opening work is the Overture to Marinarella and Miramare
(track 11) is a concert overture. In addition there are eight marches, three
waltzes and a polka comique. This last is entitled Der alte Brummbär,
translated by Chandos as ‘The old Grumbler’ but more literally The Bear
with a Sore Head. In it the old grump is personified by Fučík’s
own instrument, the bassoon, here in something of a Tubby the Tuba role.
I have to admit that I didn’t find it all that comique but ideas of
humour are notoriously changeable.
Like all the other works, however, it is very tuneful and enjoyable and the
performances do them all justice. Even the Entry of the Gladiators
(track 10) sounds less hackneyed than usual in its full form, making it understandable
that Richard Strauss should think so highly of it. I couldn’t find the Neumann
recordings to sample for comparison, but they were always very well regarded.
The Fučík items on it once filled an LP and a full-price CD on their
own, so they clearly represent value with the addition of the Dvořák
and at the price (around £5).
The two Fučík works on the Marco Polo CD, Die Regimentskinder
(track 4) and Um Mitternacht (track 13) are claimed, like all the rest
of that album, as world premiere recordings. That recording was made in February
2014, so it predates the Chandos Die Regimentskinder by a year. It’s
also taken at a considerably slower pace by Georgiadis (4:12) than by Järvi
(3:04). It’s a stately march from the former and more sprightly from the
latter; though there’s plenty of life and much to enjoy in both I would plump
for Järvi for my Desert Island choice. The Czech orchestra may be less well
known than the RSNO, but the music is in their blood and there’s little to
choose between them.
I listened to both in 24/96 sound and to the Chandos additionally from the
SACD stereo layer. Again there’s little to choose: as you might expect the
SACD and 24-bit downloads sound as identical as possible given that the former
was played from a blu-ray/SACD player and the latter from my PC via DAC, but
using the same amplifier and speakers. All three sound good, if not quite
as much larger-than-life as I had expected.
Both 24-bit downloads come at something of a premium price – the Chandos costs
£13.50, a pound or so more than you might expect to pay for the SACD – £10.50
from one dealer currently – and more expensive than the 16-bit (£9.99) or
mp3 (£7.99) downloads. You would expect to pay around £13 for the Marco Polo
CD – no SACD equivalent – whereas the 24-bit download of that costs $20.48,
with mp3 and 16-bit for $13.65. (£13.99 (24-bit) and £6.99 (16-bit) from
– also available for streaming there.) At current exchange rates that makes
eclassical marginally better value for 24-bit and classicsonline considerably
better value for 16-bit.
The choice, then, is between the all-Fučík Chandos, the mainly-Fučík
Warner and the very varied programme of light music from Strauss contemporaries
on Marco Polo. Actually there is only the one work in common between Järvi
and Georgiadis, so I can recommend both. If you can’t run to 24-bit for both
or don’t have an SACD player, you shouldn’t go far wrong with 16-bit or the
16-bit layer of the Chandos, played on a CD player.
Whichever you choose, or if you choose both the Chandos and Marco Polo, there’s
plenty for lovers of light music to enjoy here, some of it not previously
available on record.