Cate Blanchett, an Australian actor, has received praise for her portrayal of fictional composer-conductor Lydia Tár, which has garnered her a Best Actress award at Venice and rumours of an eighth Oscar nomination. Lydia Tár, “one of only 15 EGOTs [winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony] in the world,” is the subject of TR, which premieres in UK theatres on January 20, 2023.
We catch up with Tár when she is at the height of her career, when her peers are calling her “maestro,” and when she is widely regarded as one of the greatest living conductors. Blanchett shines in this monstrous role as Lydia, a famous authoritarian who loses control of her own professional legacy.
Written and directed by Todd Field, TR features a cast that includes Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, and Mark Strong; this article contains all the information you need to appreciate the film’s musical elements.
Who is Lydia Tár?
“Lydia Tár is many things,” the New Yorker journalist proclaims at the book launch which opens the movie, a remark chopped for dramatic effect into the trailer (watch above) (watch above). For those who may be confused, Lydia Tár is not a real person but rather a fictional conductor-composer who has achieved unprecedented levels of fame thanks to her work both on and off the stage.
Tár, who has led the Berlin orchestra for the past decade, is about to make a significant live recording of Mahler’s Symphony No.5 for Deutsche Grammophon as the film opens, and she is also getting ready to launch a book. The film is rife with references to the real world of classical music, from the yellow label to Marin Alsop and Leonard Bernstein.
Tár slowly plots her own demise by manipulating the relationships she has with her boyfriend (the orchestra’s first violinist), her colleagues, her protégés, and her former students. When Tár learns that her adopted daughter is being bullied at school, she threatens the girl in question and subsequently changes the entire concert schedule to accommodate the young cellist in the orchestra who has become the new target of the maestro’s attention.
Did Cate Blanchett Learn to Conduct and Play Piano For ‘TÁR’?
The journalist continues his introduction of Tár by saying, “As a conductor, Tár began her career with the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, until she at least landed here at our own New York Philharmonic.”
She also composes music for the theatre and television and was named Berlin’s senior conductor in 2013. So, Blanchett was expected to act the part of a seasoned and competent conductor. Blanchett studied music and dance as a kid, and then went to drama school to learn about movement.
Since then, Blanchett has talked about the “pleasure” she experienced while preparing for the character of Lydia by studying piano, conducting, and German in an interview with Good Morning America. She claimed that she had promised herself that she would return to playing the piano after each of her pregnancies, on the grounds that she had learnt the instrument as a young girl.
She added that conducting the Dresden Philharmonic, a German orchestra, for real was the most challenging part of her training. “You won’t be prepared for the sound of those enormous orchestral compositions,” her friend had warned her before she went.
In regards to Blanchett’s performance, Field referred to her as “a master supreme” in a director’s statement. He reflected on the experience of filming Cate, saying, “Even yet, while we were doing the picture, the superhuman-skill and verisimilitude of Cate was something genuinely remarkable to watch.
There was a collective floatation caused by her efforts. Working with an artist of his quality is an honour that cannot be expressed in words.
What’s the Music in ‘TÁR’, And Who Performs It?
Oscar-winning Icelandic composer Hildur Gunadóttir wrote the score for Joker (2020), which will be played by the London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames. The score plays a vital role in heightening the suspense and leading up to Tár’s final downfall.
Since this is a film about classical music, we also get to hear works by Elgar and Bach (the Cello Concerto and the Well-Tempered Clavier, respectively). British cellist Sophie Kauer makes her acting debut as the fictitious cellist Olga Metkina, who recorded the Elgar concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Dresden Philharmonic serves as Tár’s “Berlin” orchestra for the film. Gunadóttir’s Tár score will be released by Deutsche Grammophon on October 21. Cate Blanchett, who is featured on the record artwork, may be seen conducting a rehearsal of Mahler’s Symphony No.5 which contains music from and inspired by the film.
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