Martin Böttcher has undoubtedly written, by his music, a chapter of German film history. Since the nineteen-fifties, he has been composing the kind of music that is soothing or exciting, that renders a beautiful landscape yet more beautiful (just like in Karl May's books). It was only thanks to a stroke of luck that Martin Böttcher, who had actually wanted to be a pilot, became a musician by profession.
Martin Böttcher, born June 17, 1927, in Berlin, gained first musical experience when taking piano lessons at an early age. But his first
passion was flying, and he was dying to become a test-pilot. Not yet seventeen years old, he got his military training in the German Luftwaffe. However, due to lack of fuel, he never went into action. During captivity, Martin Böttcher managed to get hold of a guitar, which alone, given this situation, was quite an achievement. In do-it-yourself manner he learned how to play the guitar - a fact that showed his great musical gift and talent. Following his release from captivity, he went to Hamburg. There, Martin Böttcher started his musical career with the then Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk, in the dance and entertainment orchestra which had been newly created by Willi Steiner, and which was held in high esteem even in England that boasted quite a few big-bands. At the same time, Böttcher's teachers of basic musical know-how were chief musical director Richard Richter, and, in the field of light music, Kurt Wege. At first, Martin Böttcher concentrated on jazz music,
and he became the number two guitarist in a poll concerning the performance of German jazz musicians. Already at that time, he gained important experience as an assistant to several famous film composers, he learned, among others, from Michael Jary, Lothar Olias or Hans-Martin Majewski for whom he arranged, for example, part of the music for LIEBE 47.
In 1950, Martin Böttcher, who liked to work on new sounds, recorded the first trick guitar pieces in Germany. Two years later, he left the music stand, and turned to manuscript paper. The talent of Martin Böttcher did not escape the attention of the German film industry, which was just gaining new momentum at that time. Thanks to producer Artur Brauner, Böttcher made his debut in 1955, by composing the music for the military satire DER HAUPTMANN UND SEIN HELD, and already his second soundtrack turned out to be a milestone of German film history. DIE HALBSTARKEN by Georg Tressler met with tremendous success. Martin Böttcher's 'Mr. Martin's Band' comprised the top German jazz musicians, among them Horst Fischer, Fatty George, Bill Grah, Ernst Mosch or Hans 'James' Last. Böttcher's work went on in quick succession. For the great Hans Albers, he composed three songs for the film 13 KLEINE ESEL UND DER SONNENHOF, and Heinz Rühmann's unforgotten 'Pater Brown' films, DAS SCHWARZE SCHAF/ER KANN'S NICHT LASSEN, too, benefited from the young composer's talent. In MAX, DER TASCHENDIEB, the 'Hawaii Tattoo' theme was introduced, which Böttcher had written under the pseudonym of Michael Thomas. Within a short time, this theme became famous all over the world, and even received attention in America.
At the beginning of the nineteen-sixties, Horst Wendlandt, head of the Rialto film company, engaged the composer to write the soundtracks for films of Rialto's Edgar Wallace series. Martin Böttcher's themes, easy-going or swift, provided an appropriate musical support for these German 'whodunnit fairytales'. Martin Böttcher found his greatest success when he composed the music for the Karl May films, ennobling ten of these films by his unique sound. As the Filmbewertungsstelle in Wiesbaden puts it: 'This music is absolutely disarming in its artistic abundance.' Imagine what if Karl May, who never actually visited the scenes of his adventure novels, had lived to see that. He would certainly have given Martin Böttcher full marks for imagination and sensitivity, in particular as Böttcher had not even read a single book by Karl May. The audience was enthusiastic about the wistful tunes, the fanfare-like music accompanying attacks, and the cheerful hillbilly themes. Small wonder that these themes won top positions in hit-parades.
With the film industry declining at the end of the nineteen-sixties, Martin Böttcher increasingly focused on working for T.V. The broadcasting
companies had contacted him as early as 1962. The transition of his work from cinema to television went on without any problems, for both film and T.V. music require interaction of musical imagination and technical stop-watch precision. Dramatic peaks, or moods such as monotony, solitude, infatuation or excitement, have to be expressed within a precise schedule determined by the footage to be provided with a musical background. All of which Martin Böttcher masters in an outstanding way. It is, however, not the only secret of his success. It is supplemented by the composer's 'handwriting', this 'Martin Böttcher sound' which is always fascinating, unique, and a kind of 'fingerprint'. German television, which, at that time, was still in its infancy, also benefited from Böttcher's talent, for Böttcher's music accompanied the classic STAHLNETZ series and quite a few top-class ZDF productions. In the nineteen-seventies, Martin Böttcher turned out a number
of successful soundtracks, among them music for the T.V. series SONDERDEZERNAT K 1, or for numerous episodes of DER ALTE and DERRICK. He again encountered the name of Karl May when he wrote the soundtrack for the 26-episode KARA BEN NEMSI EFFENDI series. The author of DER ILLEGALE (a T.V. film in several parts), Henry Kolarz, said, rightly: 'Even if I spoilt it -
Böttcher's music is much too good for everything to go wrong.' Throughout the years that followed, Martin Böttcher composed yet more evergreen themes for T.V. series, such as ES MUSS NICHT IMMER KAVIAR SEIN, SCHÖNE FERIEN, or FORSTHAUS FALKENAU. In the nineties, among others, AIR ALBATROS took off, which proved something special to the composer, for he could pay a musical tribute to his passion for flying. And when Pierre Brice just recently mounted his horse again as 'Winnetou' for the ZDF, he was, of course, accompanied by a soundtrack by Martin Böttcher.
But that is, by far, not all! Martin Böttcher's creativity went beyond film or T.V. music, so he composed songs for artists like Romy Schneider, Elisabeth Flickenschildt, Françoise Hardy, Peggy March or the 'blood brothers' Lex Barker and Pierre Brice. Even the Americans became aware of his perfomance as an arranger and orchestra director. When they heard his rendering of world-famous themes such as 'Tara's Theme' or 'A Summerplace', Martin Böttcher was made an honorary member of the Max Steiner Society. There are some special events of the last years that must be mentioned in this preface: On October 9, 1995, the Deutsche Filmmusikpreise were awarded at the Bonner Bundeskunsthalle Martin Böttcher was honoured with a prize for an 'outstanding contribution to German film history, which shows in an abundant musical uvre'. In 1996, on the occasion of a concert for the benefit of a children's hospital in Mostar, the 'Friedensmelodie' (Peace Theme) was played for the first time in Radebeul, the town where Karl May spent much of his life. This meant once more live music by Martin Böttcher who, at the beginning of the nineteen-sixties, had already been given the opportunity to play his works for a big audience on the Waldbühne in Berlin. The continuous success of the 'Winnetou' themes was the reason why, at the Karl May Festival in Bad Segeberg in 1997, the Schacht-Musikverlage honoured the tremendously successful composer with a 'special award'.
In 1998, the composer once more conquers German hit parades. A band from Cologne, the "Superboys", scores a hit with a vocal version of the "Winnetou" theme. Their song "Ich wünscht' du wärst bei mir" even reached the top of the ZDF televison hit parade. In 2001, at a concert at Götzis/Austria, Böttcher's tunes are performed for an enthusiastic audience, and Martin Böttcher appears as a guest at the "SOMMERNACHT AUF SCHLOSS ENGERS" SWR gala show. The "master of tunes" is honored in a very special way in 2002: as a jury member (Europäischer Förderpreis - a European talent award) Martin Böttcher represents Germany at this year's European Biennal
for Film Music in Bonn.
Martin Böttcher is of one of the great composers of our time - catchy themes which have become hits, and which are just the kind of music that will always be a great success with the audience.
Translated by Christina Boehme (Germany)