May 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Third Man  
Music composed and performed for the film by Anton Karas
  For this album the zither is played by Gertrud Huber
  Available On: Silva Screen FILMCD 367  
Running Time: 48:12

third man

The albumís notes claims that Carol Reedís The Third Man was the most successful British film ever. News to me. However there is no denying the impact Anton Karasís music made. The filmís score was revolutionary in that it featured only one instrument, Karasís zither. In Vienna, zither music is heard everywhere: on street corners and in the sidewalk cafés. And it perfectly complements the austere atmosphere of immediate post-WWII torn Vienna broken and prey to all sorts of criminal activity. As we hear British military policeman Calloway (Trevor Howard) speaking of Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in one of six dialogue excerpts included in this album: "Öhe was the worst racketeer that ever made a dirty living in this city".

Karasís potent Harry Lime theme has enjoyed lasting success through the years and it permeates this recording, but Gertrud Huber, playing the material exactly as heard in the film, with enthusiasm and sensitivity also includes the rest of the zither music heard through the production. (Ms Huber is shown recording The Harry Lime Theme in the enhanced visual element of this enhanced CD). This material notably includes the Café Mozart Waltz and the music varies in mood from the jolly and comic through sad dreamy and wistful to music of dejection and disillusion. Four bonus tracks adding popular local Viennese music adds further variety.

Depending on whether you like the zither, this album will either attract or repel. Personally I think a few selected tracks would have been better utilised in some sort of compilation.

Ian Lace

*** 3

Gary Dalkin adds:-

In a way this album can be considered Silva Screen's sequel to its recently reissued soundtrack to The Ipcress File . Both are classic dark British thrillers, and though coming a generation later The Ipcress File can be seen very much in the tradition of The Third Man. John Barry's score for the later film is decidedly monothematic, its appeal resting on a central melody which if not as famous as Karas' for The Third Man, is surely as memorable and effective. As Karas with the zither, Barry chose the central European instrument string instrument the cymbalon to dominate his score, an instrument which is a close cousin of the zither. On album Silva Screen chose to break-up the soundtrack's repetitive nature with dialogue extracts, and they have done exactly the same thing here. The result is certainly comprehensive, finely performed and produced, though for all but the most ardent fans of the zither, an album which outstays its welcome. I can not but help agree with Ian that a handful of tracks on a compilation would have been a better way to go with this one. If the film itself was not such a classic I doubt very much this album would ever have been made based purely on the musical merits of the score. That said, there is a very appealing and imaginative orchestral arrangement of the Harry Lime Theme included as a bonus track and the well illustrated and detailed booklet is well worth a read.

Gary Dalk

*** 3

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