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Karl-May-Forum • View topic - The Music Of Winnetou.

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 Post subject: The Music Of Winnetou.
PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 10:34 am 
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It could be fairly argued that, when classical music withered and then perished through its descent (during the 20th century) to atonality and serialism, its only remaining living branch was the idiom of the film score. In that still-verdant limb, tonality, harmony and melody reigned, and the long-understood language could not readily be turned into a cloak to conceal vacuity of inspiration or talent. Yet, to this day, the validity of film music as a true art form remains questioned, and a differentiation is still made between film scores and what is considered to be bona fide classical music. Because of this, records and CDs of film music are marketed differently, to two separate audiences: (1) a mass-market audience, whose members may like to purchase items connected to films they enjoy; and (2) the specialised group of film score aficionados. In the second of these markets, a rich and growing panoply of film scores has become available. Yet even in that rarefied market, so full of knowledge, the music connected to Karl May’s works is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world—yet another example of how that world has remained in the dark about an author whose work has brought untold pleasure, and majestic ideas, to millions of people in the rest of the world.

As noted in the introduction to the Winnetou films, a critical part of their success, both commercially and as completely realised works of art, was the music composed by Martin Böttcher. His Winnetou scores, which were, and are, extraordinarily popular in Germany, perfectly complement the Karl May-feeling of the films: a romantic idealisation of the Old West. Thus, the principal melodies, of which the most sublime are the leitmotifs associated with the main characters, are not only startlingly beautiful, but other-worldly as well. Even a theme like the “Tramp-Melodie”, associated with villains and their evil acts, was not conceived in the dark mood customarily informing such film music: it is dramatic, to be sure, and initially foreboding, but it inevitably rises to a bittersweet level, as the low unison brass figure blossoms into a poignant chordal phrase. It seems to convey the sadness of witnessing the un-necessary and unjust harm men do to each other.

Words can not adequately describe music (samples from the CDs discussed below can be heard on Amazon Germany, www.amazon.de). Those who have seen the Winnetou films already know how unique and special Böttcher’s scores are. Hopefully, others will use the information in the message “Where To Get Winnetou Films”, and having experienced some of these wonderful films, will desire to obtain some of the music in a form that can be enjoyed on its own. Thus, the purpose of this message.

Because of the immense popularity of Martin Böttcher’s Winnetou music in Germany, there have always been a great many records—and later, CDs—available in that country. However, these CDs are virtually unknown in many parts of the English-speaking world. In the U.S., even the firms specialising in producing and importing film score CDs do not stock a single Winnetou CD, despite the fact that this music would be loved even by those who have never heard of Winnetou. As an example of this strange “black-out”, Screen Archives Entertainment, a prominent on-line source of film scores, has available two CDs of Karl-Ernst Sasse’s superb scores for some of the East German “Indianer” Western films, but not a sign of Winnetou.

CDs will play anywhere. There are no region codes or regional technical standards involved. Thus, obtaining music from other countries is simply a matter of finding a way to purchase it. The best source of German CDs, for those in English-speaking countries, is Amazon Germany, as discussed in “Where To Get Winnetou Films”. But which of the countless CDs to choose?

First, although most Winnetou fans will not select it because of its high cost, must be mentioned the remarkable 8-CD set produced by the great German record label Bear Family Records:

Wilder Westen – Heisser Orient: Karl-May-Filmmusik 1936 – 1968
Bear Family Records BCD 16413 HL
Amazon Number: B00005LQFA

This set is presented in an extremely impressive LP-sized box, and it also contains a beautiful, LP-sized hard-cover book of 192 pages, loaded with spectacular colour reproductions of the posters and other artwork of the Karl May films (in the case of the Winnetou films, this artwork became a true art form in its own right). The eight CDs contain all available music from Karl May films made from 1936 to 1968, including just about every bit of music from the Winnetou films, in their original soundtrack form.

Here is the Bear Family web-site (which can be viewed in English, and from which the 8-CD set can be directly ordered):



Because of the “frame” format of the web-site, I can not provide a direct link to the product listing, but one need merely select “search”, and then enter “wilder westen” in the “album title” box. All 465 tracks on the CDs are listed.

In my opinion, the cost of the Bear Family set (currently 173.09 Euros on the Bear Family site, and 160.95 Euros on Amazon Germany) is far more than offset by the splendid value it contains, to Karl May, Winnetou, and Winnetou-music fans who can afford it.

Bear Family also produce a very special CD (which is widely available, even outside of Germany):

Winnetou Du Warst Mein Freund (“Winnetou, you were my Friend”)
Bear Family Records BCD 15984 AH
Amazon Number: B00000B0K9

This consists of songs recorded by Pierre Brice (Winnetou) and Lex Barker (Old Shatterhand), many of which were composed by Martin Böttcher, as well as other popular songs related to Winnetou. (These songs were not in the films.)

For those who desire the Martin Böttcher Winnetou melodies in an accessible form, I recommend the following CDs:

Karl-May-Melodien
5050467-9535-2-9
Warner Music Group
Amazon Number: B000BPCCH8

This is a new CD release of an LP record produced in 1966 with Böttcher conducting, but note that these are not the actual soundtrack recordings used in the films, as on the Bear Family set. However, the performances are very much in the style of the soundtrack recordings.

Martin Böttcher: Winnetou Melodien
3984-29027-2
EastWest Records, a Warner Music International Company
Amazon Number: B00002DF7E

This is a later, stereo recording by Böttcher of the most well-known Winnetou themes, and it includes the lovely “Grand Canyon-Melodie” from “Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der Toten”.

Die Schönsten Karl May Filmmelodien (“The Most Beautiful Karl May Film Melodies”)
980-935-5
Polydor (Universal)
Amazon Number: B0000C03FF

This is a 3-CD set (though at the price of a typical single CD), with 33 tracks of music from the Winnetou films, recorded by Martin Böttcher and his orchestra.

So far, all of the music under consideration was composed for the Winnetou films of the 1960s. However, for a two-part television mini-series of 1998, starring Pierre Brice as Winnetou, Martin Böttcher again composed the score, including beautiful new melodies. A CD has been produced, and although it is out of print, it remains somewhat available:

Winnetous Rückkehr (“Winnetou’s Return”)
557 021-2
Polydor
Amazon Number: B00000JP4A

Two of the 1960s Winnetou films were not scored by Martin Böttcher:

“Old Shatterhand” was intended to be somewhat “American” in manner, and was scored by Riz Ortolani in a style reminiscent of Elmer Bernstein (composer of “The Magnificent Seven” and other classic American Westerns). While completely different than the special music of Böttcher, which will be forever identified with Winnetou, Ortolani’s score is splendid and rousing. Alas, the only in-print source is the 8-CD set from Bear Family. A very short-lived German label, Cobra Records, produced a single CD of this score (and this CD has a rare English version of a song), but it is out of print and very difficult to find.

“Winnetou und sein Freund Old Firehand” was scored by Peter Thomas in his own unique “pop” style. He also scored the 1980 television mini-series “Winnetou le Mescalero”/“Mein Freund Winnetou” (“Winnetou the Mescalero”/“My Friend Winnetou”), and may be somewhat known to horror film fans in English-speaking countries for his score to “Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel” (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), 1967, known in English as “The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism” or “Castle of the Walking Dead”, a film of truly unique visual style and sensibility directed by Winnetou master Harald Reinl and starring Lex Barker, Karin Dor, and Christopher Lee (who was under consideration for the part of Winnetou before Pierre Brice was chosen). Alas, Thomas’ score for “Old Firehand” is not available outside of the Bear Family set. However, his score for the 1980 Winnetou television series was released on LP and cassette at the time, and copies can sometimes be found on eBay Germany.

Martin Böttcher has a splendid web-site, with some features available in English. It is well worth visiting:



Below are links to the Amazon Germany listings for the products mentioned above, in the order presented:













Last edited by Philip Colston on Mon Jun 04, 2007 6:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:50 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2007 12:58 am
Posts: 100
Location: Melbourne Australia
Philip - a breathtaking report! Thank you for the unique list of available music, which I have never seen anywhere else in such detail before! The spirit of Karl May is smiling at you from the eternal hunting grounds - as Karl May was - as you know - a great musician himself! Regards Bill.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:30 am 
...Martin Boettcher: "...he [Lex] can't hold a note..." - despite that, it is worth listening to the smooth velvet voice of Sexy Lexy (as his fans called him) ... there are two voice clips from the only two songs he ever recorded with Martin Boettcher here:

http://www.tribute-to-lex-barker.net/in ... menu=sound

you have to scroll right to the bottom:

Maedchen in Samt und Seide
Ich bin morgen auf dem Weg zu Dir

have fun


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:32 am 
... I just realised .... THIS FORUM IS ROCKING ! yeah!!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 7:53 am 
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Joined: Sun May 20, 2007 12:05 pm
Posts: 168
Location: U.S.A.
While Lex Barker was no singer, he managed to do quite a reasonable job on his two recordings, both of which are on the Bear Family CD “Winnetou Du Warst Mein Freund”, described above. I might also note that this CD is styled to complement the 8-CD Karl May set. It is packaged in a double-CD box, to provide room for the extra-thick, 42-page booklet, which is filled with images of Winnetou film art.

While Martin Böttcher has joked about the singing ability of both Lex Barker and Pierre Brice, the latter recorded ten of the songs on the above CD, and has made more recordings later on; he still sings to this day. A CD of relatively recent recordings is:

Pierre Brice: Gefühle (“Feelings”)
Herz Klang HER 478364 2
Sony Music Entertainment
Amazon Number: B000ODTNTM

The last two tracks on this CD incorporate Martin Böttcher’s “Winnetou-Melodie” and “Shatterhand-Melodie”, respectively.

By the way, there is a brief video-audio clip of Martin Böttcher conducting the “Winnetou-Melodie” in 1997, for the mini-series “Winnetous Rückkehr”, on his web-site. Choose “Record of the Month” and then click on the picture of the “Winnetous Rückkehr” CD.

Marlies, the Lex Barker web-site you cited—



—is excellent, and should be of great interest to Karl May film fans. It has an English option, and has very extensive material on who dubbed his voice in his films. The web-master concludes that Barker dubbed his own voice in the English versions of his Winnetou films, except for “The Treasure of Silver Lake”. I am not convinced of this. Barker had a very distinctive and deep voice. I think he did dub his English voice on “Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel”, and readers can compare for themselves since this film is available on DVD in both U.S. and German editions (the latter being the best I have seen, with an excellent, restored wide-screen print and some splendid extra features, including the English dialogue option).

Stewart Granger dubbed his own voice in the English versions of two of his Winnetou films, but in the first, “Unter Geiern”, another voice actor was used. Perhaps the sound of this rather bad dubbing motivated Granger to do his own voice work afterward! Alas, although he did a splendid job as Old Surehand (though not in Karl May style), and the films were great successes, he reportedly hated everything about working on these films, and was in a perpetual bad mood. This may be why he never made the two “Old Surehand” sequels that were planned—“Old Surehand” is actually “Old Surehand 1. Teil” (“Old Surehand Part 1”).

Bill, I should explain that the listings above are not meant to be a comprehensive compilation of all available CDs of Winnetou-Music. That would take several pages. But the material is widely duplicated, and I made a selection that should cover most of the recordings that would be of interest to Winnetou fans.

For those who like “pop” style music, there is a recent CD available:

Maverick’s Shatterband: Howdy Ho Winnetou
Tyrolis CD 352302
Amazon Number: B000GIN57G

Although I do not normally care for “modern pop” music, I can say that this is pleasant music—a very affectionate tribute to Karl May and Winnetou. The title song was very recently featured in Shatterband’s “music video” for the new Winnetou fan film, “Winnetou und das Geheimnis der Geisterschlucht” (I translate this as “Winnetou and the Secret of Ghost Canyon”, but perhaps, Marlies, you can offer a better version). This fan film will be available on DVD on 29 June, and when I obtain it and see the film, I shall of course report here. It appears to be quite professional and was filmed at the original locations in Croatia. On the film web-site—



—there is plenty of information, as well as links to the teaser trailer, the trailer, and the “music video”.

Here is the Shatterband web-site:



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 8:37 am 
your translation is perfect, Philip ... you might yet turn your hand to a Karl May translation :-) ... don't laugh ... stranger things have happened

oh ... almost forgot ... the CD with Lex Barker's 2 songs on it ... my girlfriend in Hobart has it ... so I'll get to hear him sing the entire song, not just a snippet


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:00 am 
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Thank you for the confirmation, Marlies! 8)

:idea: It just occurred to me that I should point out something about the 8-CD set from Bear Family Records. In order to include 465 tracks on eight CDs, it necessarily follows that each CD must have more than the usual number of tracks (an average of 58 per disc). Most CD players, even inexpensive models, will have no trouble with this. But some older players will not recognise more than a certain number of tracks per disc, and will stop playing at the last track recognised. When this happens, there is nothing wrong with either the CD or the player.


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