Leonard Slatkin: Where the movie Tár gets the music all wrongWhy Mahler
The eminent American conductor has posted reservations about the film on his website. He writes:
... As a conductor, Blanchett does a more-than-credible job of emulating a podium presence. But make no mistake, she is not actually the one conducting. Like all films of this genre, the soundtrack is pre-recorded, usually with someone else leading the orchestra. Basically, the actor is body syncing, and although her gestures are wildly over the top, for the most part, she is together with the music. That is until we come to the Elgar, where things go awry in several departments.
Lydia is not coordinated with the orchestra. The concertmaster, who is also Lydia’s wife, clearly cannot play the violin. She has little to no vibrato and seems distracted from the music most of the time. However, the young woman who performs the solos in the Elgar, Sophie Kauer, is terrific and very convincing playing Olga, the Russian cellist who attracts Lydia’s attention. It turns out that Kauer was a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London and is working toward her degree in cello performance at the Norwegian Academy of Music.
The orchestral sound is, at best, murky in the Mahler, as if it had been recorded in a very large bathroom. It is clear that a real orchestra was used for the cameras, and they too are syncing to a pre-recorded track. A most uncomfortable-looking principal trumpet performs the opening of the Mahler, which Lydia wants offstage, quite nicely. Lydia rehearses using a combination of German and English, and surprisingly, we do not get translations of what she is saying. This could have been helpful to gain insight into the world Lydia inhabits. We learn at the beginning of the film that her chief mentor and inspiration was Leonard Bernstein. Certainly whoever conducted the actual soundtrack of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony tried to emulate this with a more-than-excruciatingly-slow rendition.
There are moments when Blanchett is at the piano, and either she studied at some point or actually plays these brief bits herself. Everyone else acquits themselves admirably, and the actors are convincing when speaking about lofty matters of musical theory and performance.
The film is riveting, certainly, but also frustrating. To start with, in what has to be one of the most annoying experiences I have ever had at a movie theater, the end credits actually appear at the start of the film. They are shown in an almost unreadable font and seem to take up at least five minutes of the run time. If you want to know who did what, stick around until the story is over.
Certain scenes depict situations that may seem plausible to the non-orchestral player but are simply not in practice in real life. Although we get a glimpse into the world of the “blind audition,” this process should have been made clearer for the viewer. Especially unrealistic is the announcement by Lydia that the Elgar Concerto will be the companion work on the album with the Mahler. She tells them that it is only right for a member of the orchestra to be the soloist and that the player would be decided by an audition to be held in just three days, as if all the cellists had this ready to go….
Read on here.