The soundtrack: Richard Harvey - 1988

Game, Set & Match

Equally as important to the success of 1988 ITV television adaptation of Len Deighton's Game, Set and Match series is the haunting soundtrack by Richard Harvey.

This TV series - which is actually very good drame and pretty faithful to the complex storyline of the first trilogy - was only shown once in October 1988, on ITV. Len subsequently did not permit further screenings and withdrew the broadcast rights for the series as he was not satisfied with elements of the casting by the producers, meaning that it has never been released - officially, at least - on DVD or online.

Otherwise, more people would probably be aware of Harvey's soundtrack for the series, which adds terrifically to the TV adaptation and, with its minor key main theme, captures perfectly the bleak atmosphere of Cold War Berlin and the tension and treachery that is impressed upon each page of the book.

Following the trilogy, Harvey wrote three movements for the soundtrack, the first of which is Berlin Game.

This (admittedly lo-fi) clip from the TV adaptation up on YouTube illustrates the haunting tension built up through the solo cello introduction, leading into the main theme of the whole TV series developed on the viola - played here by Roger Chase - which is a musical metaphor for the Bernard Samson character - nervous, tense, full of intrigue, never trusting. This is the theme which was played at the start of each showing on the TV.

Other tracks - such as track two, 'The Wrong Side of Charlie' - build on this tension, with the single viola melody developing the main theme and a three tone, almost morse-code-like lead-in to the main theme which all together conjure up the city at the centrepoint of world tension. Sharp snaps of snare drums, staccato violin sweeps, mournful cello tritone crescendos and a minor key pattern on the pattern - together with what sounds like a harpsichord - help build the story one sees on the screen, as Bernard is forced - reluctantly - to return to Berlin.

The second movement - Mexico Set - starts with a track 'Tianguis', which moves the soundtrack across the atlantic to Mexico, so we here a Marimba theme to depict the jungle and exotic location the story has shifted to. 'Domingo's Path' - with a haunting oboe theme, the viola adapting the main theme and crashing cymbals, brings to life the moves to 'turn' Major General Erich Stinnes, the key KGB agent in a city now controlled by Bernard's wife, all taking place in the blistering heat of Mexico City and the seas of the Yucatan peninsula.

The final movement - London Match - is musically a denouement, following the arc of the TV series and the books. 'A Christmas Spy' has a french horn-led theme - perhaps symbolising the idea of a spy being hunted. The last track - 'End Game' - starts with legato strings in a rather chilling and mournful opening, with the piano picking out sparse descending notes and the french horn picking out the core theme. This is a track that is building up to something - as the TV series builds up to the ending on the border between East and West Berlin.

RichardHarvey

Richard Harvey, composer

Collectors' note

The soundtrack, published by Chrysalis Records, is still available second-hand online - a quick Amazon search reveals a number of sellers offering the disc at £25 plus range.