20th anniversary of the death of Dr. Ulrich Uchtenhagen

This year marks 20 years since the sudden tragic death of Dr. Ulrich Uchtenhagen (*1926), who died on 31 January 2003 in a car accident in Zimbabwe. This lawyer and great lover of classical music was not only the director of the Swiss Copyright Organisation (SUISA) from 1961-1989, but also the personal advisor to two prominent European composers whose fates met in Switzerland, namely Paul Hindemith and Bohuslav Martinů.

It was Dr. Ulrich Uchtenhagen, for many of his colleagues up to this day the "guru of the collective management in music", who suggested to B. Martinů towards the end of his life, that he cancel his membership in ASCAP after permanently moving from the US to Switzerland and be represented by SUISA. After the composer's death in 1959, he effectively helped the composer's widow found the B. Martinů Foundation – first in Switzerland and then in the former communist Czechoslovakia, where Dr. Richard Klos was his most important partner. Klos was a lawyer for the Czech Music Fund and also later for the B. Martinů Foundation. Uchtenhagen provided the first legal counselling for the B. Martinů Institute, where he was an active helper since its founding in 1994, and for all meetings with publishing houses releasing the works of B. Martinů. Dr. Uchtenhagen also played a fundamental role in saving a large amount of B. Martinů's autographs. As soon as he found out that the composers wife Charlotte was giving them out full of gratitude and good will to various interpreters and lovers of her husband's work, and that she wasn't keeping any records, he convinced her to put them all into an archive at SUISA, where he made photocopies for her to give out at freely. He ceremoniously presented the Foundation and the Bohuslav Martinů Institute with all the autographs in 1999.

After retirement Ulrich was looking forward to entering a convent, where he intended to spend the rest of his days in peace. However this private wish was sidelined by his awareness of responsibility - at the age of almost 70 years he accepted an offer of Organisation mondiale de la propriété intellectuelle (OMPI) and travelled to Africa to help build local copyright organisations. However he never forgot to visit the Bohuslav Martinů Festival that took place in December in Prague, where he met with friends from the Foundation and the Bohuslav Martinů Institute.  Among other things, he also helped formulate letters to publishers in the early preparation phase of the Complete Works of Bohuslav Martinů. During one of his first visits in 1995 he received one of the first medals ever to be awarded by the Foundation, from the hands of Dr. Viktor Kalabis, the then president of the Board of Directors.

Aleš Březina