Sometimes you hear a score for a film you've not seen and simply can't imagine how the music can work in context, based on knowledge of the story and genre. Anton Karas' Harry Lime Theme from The Third Man is one of those curiously famous title themes, quite diverting for its two minutes of zither music, but would many people feel the urge to dash out and listen to an entire album's worth? Well, I can't say I do. The film is a British noir starring Orson Welles, but the music is about as far from Miklos Rozsa's Double Indemnity, for example, as one could imagine. Apparently, Karas' solo zither music was used to conjure up local colour and charm, even if the Viennese setting rather suggests Strauss or Mahler. Whatever the case, I can't honestly say that zither music is my kind of thing, it rather suggests the banjo and thus George Fornby, or on other occasions, something one might expect to find playing on arrival at a Hawaiian airport. Either way, enough to send most music fans running for cover.
One of the most curious things about the music is that the general tone is quite perky; the confident swagger of the Harry Lime Theme extends to almost every track. Even Holly is Accused of Homicide - not the most cheerful turns of event by any measure - is playful and confident. The inherent problem with the zither is that the range of expression is rather limited, so the gentle Holly Brings Flowers has the same tone as any other track. I'm not sure how the performance by Gertrud Huber compares to the original (which was performed by the composer), but it seems great pains were made to ensure it sounds authentic. The album concludes with four bonus tracks, including two orchestral versions, which are a welcome change in timbre. Like their recent re-release of Barry's The Ipcress File, almost every other track is a dialogue snippet, which is either intrusive or welcome relief, depending on your point of view. Interesting historically, with the enjoyment factor hinging entirely on acceptance of the spotlight instrument, something I couldn't quite bring myself to do, but a zither lover's wet dream.