eEarlier this month, director Todd Field was interviewed by Radio 3’s Private Passions about his new film Tár. Presenter Michael Berkley saw it the night before and commented: Was that what you wanted? ’” Field replied with a confident “yes,” before bursting into laughter.
At the heart of Tár is the study of power. Field may have summoned a ruthless politician to make his film, but he chose to go one step further – opting for an absolutist figure. One of the world’s greatest orchestras Lydia Tarr, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s first female principal conductor, is played by the imposing Cate Blanchett. The fictional Thal’s real-life predecessor was Herbert von He Karajan, who conducted the Berlin Philharmonic from 1956 until his death in 1989. “She was envious of me,” Karajan once said.
Much has been left untold in the tar, so much important analysis has been done. There’s also a lot to simmer when it comes to the film’s music, or more specifically, her two productions, which Lydia Tarr will conduct with her orchestra. In the opening scene, she completes Mahler’s cycle of her nine symphonies (her ten, counting his last unfinished symphony) by recording her version of No. 5 live. I hear you’re trying Needing a piece to play in the evening with Mahler, she chose Elgar’s Cello Concerto and her latest grooming victim, young Russian cellist Olga Metkina (played by Sophie Kauer). I was able to promote a novice in the orchestra to a soloist.
Tár seemed to follow the lead’s almost pointless fall from supreme power, her career and personal life being destroyed by numerous allegations of wrongdoing. So why put Mahler’s No. 5 at the center of this psychodrama? Written between 1901 and 1902 and premiered in 1904, the work is a five-movement piece that opens with a funeral march. “The first of the five movements is about death, with Lydia experiencing a kind of artistic death, personal death and the possibility of rebirth,” Field added. “It’s like it’s haunting her, it’s hitting her.”
The first movement alone takes twelve or thirteen minutes. In the film, there is much discussion about the different lengths at which the conductor plays the famous fourth movement, Adagietto (from 7 minutes to his 12 minutes). All in all, the symphony lasts over an hour of his and draws on many sonic and thematic directions. It’s a wide-open piece, ripe for individual interpretation, and perfectly suited for a film that doesn’t offer easy answers.
Mahler said, “A symphony must be like the world. It must embrace all.” His symphonies look back and move forward, creating ambiguity both consciously and unconsciously. Music critic Norman Lebrecht wrote in his 2010 book Why Mahler?
Mahler met and married his wife Alma, who was also a composer, while writing his Fifth Symphony. Adagietto is his love letter, but it is not always perceived as such. In the film, Lydia Tarr is portrayed as a protégé of American conductor Leonard Bernstein. In 1968, Bernstein conducted Adagiett at Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral, performing like a “mass,” as Tarr puts it. Since 9/11, it has been played repeatedly by orchestras and radio DJs across the United States.
After her brother-in-law’s funeral, Jackie Kennedy wrote to Bernstein: I’ve heard of it. I’m glad I didn’t know, it was the strange music of the gods that made me cry…” This is the power of Mahler’s No. 5, a work that is reborn every time a new listener encounters it. Field told Private Passions that when he first heard the piece, he thought “he personally discovered it”. Mikhail Gorbachev, who first heard the song in 1991, commented:
It is ironic that both Mahler’s No. 5 and Elgar’s Cello Concerto (1919) had little resonance when composed and permeated over time, achieving spectacular results in the 1960s. . Bernstein was integral to Mahler’s success in the late 20th century. Elgar is grateful to have British cellist Jacqueline du Pre for turning his failures into standards. Recorded at the age of 20 with the London Symphony Orchestra under John Barbirolli, Du Pré’s moving and endless rendition of his 1965 concerto transcends genres. It impacted the zeitgeist, sold like a pop record, and made Duchess Pres a star. She died at the age of 42 in 1987, after multiple sclerosis ended her playing career fourteen years earlier. Her death marked one of British classical music’s most terrible tragedies. remains as one of
At Thal, a darkly comical character named Olga Metkina says that she was introduced to Elgar’s Cello Concerto by Du Pre, but not through a recording, but through a live performance on YouTube. There is a correlation between the free-spirited nature of Metkina and du Pre, but you can also see that Field specifically needed Elgar’s Cello Concerto in his film. Like Mahler’s Fifth, it is a very popular song that is frequently used in Hollywood and provides a reachable access point for those new to classical music. But perhaps Field has further intentions. was considered stifling, reactionary, and redneck. He died in 1934.
By the time Elgar began writing his Cello Concerto in the aftermath of World War I, he was already considered obsolete, and he knew it. In addition, the carnage of the war affected him severely, and his beloved wife, Alice, was ill (she would soon die). He was lonely, depressed, and had no intention of continuing to write another major orchestral work. Later, when preparing a catalog of his music, he wrote “Finis RIP” next to his concerto, but he lived another fifteen years and published many more small works. The mournful Autumn Concerto is thought to be a war lament, but perhaps Elgar was writing a requiem for his own death. In that sense, with Lydia Tarr her unwittingly orchestrating her own demise, Field’s narrative arc couldn’t fit more perfectly.