Cate Blanchett's new conductor film is one you're not going to want to miss


17 November 2022
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By Ellie Palmer
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The Australian actor stars on the Dec/Jan issue of Pianist, and talks in-depth inside about how she prepared for her role as a powerful conductor at the peak of her career. 'Tár' is already out in US cinemas, and hits UK cinemas on 20 January.

 

2x Oscar winner Cate Blanchett has a brand-new movie out; and it's movie that us classical music lovers are not going to want to miss.

In Tár, Blanchett plays a fictional composer-conductor Lydia Tár nearing the peak of her career who has taken over a celebrated German orchestra as its first female music director. It's a gripping movie that highlights Tár's highs and lows as she grapples with maintaining her status and image.

But how exactly does a non-professional musician prepare for the role of a professional musician? 

As part of her preparation for the role, Blanchett intensely studied masterclasses given by some of history's greatest conductors and pianists. Russian conducting great Ilya Musin was high on the list, and was studied in detail. The actor also looked at films featuring Claudio Abbado, Carlos Kleiber, Emmanuelle Haïm and Bernard Haitink in performance.

While studying the greats is one thing, Blanchett also needed to be able to play like a professional. The Australian took many piano lessons as a child in Melbourne, but digging up that learning experience wasn't going to be enough for this role. So, she turned to one of the Liszt Academy's best teachers for help.

‘I was worried because I knew I had to play these bits and pieces, and I thought, “I have to get some lessons”,' she explains to Pianist editor Erica Worth inside the Dec/Jan issue. Blanchett was filming in Budapest, Hungary, for a different project when she came across teacher Emese Virág.

'I was lucky to find Emese Virág, who teaches at the Liszt Academy in Budapest. She would come to see me once a week.’

Blanchett also took practical lessons with the conducting coach Natalie Murray Beale in preparation for the role.

 

The preparation Blanchett has undertaken for such a role is not to be underestimated. Film critics around the world have already lauded Tár, with Variety's Owen Gleiberman writing, 'In Tár, Todd Field [the film's director] enmeshes us in a tautly unfolding narrative of quiet duplicity, corporate intrigue, and — ultimately — erotic obsession. Yet he does it so organically that for a while you don't even realize you're watching a 'story.' But that's what a great story is, right? It doesn't hit you over the head with telegraphed arcs. It sneaks up on you, the way that life does.'

The New York Times commented, 'We don’t care about Lydia Tár because she's an artist; we care about her because she's art.'

Cate Blanchett appears on the cover of the Dec/Jan issue of Pianist. Inside, she speaks in depth about her role in the new film. Get your copy here.

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'Tár' is already out in US cinemas and hits UK cinemas on 20 January.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knew I had to get to a point where you didn’t need
to be from, or live inside, the classical music world in order to
know what the character was talking about. It’s like if you watch
a film about a rocket scientist, it has to be about something else.
That was just the language she spoke. It’s masterful in that it’s
so specific yet so universal.’

 

lessons from Blanchett’s
Melbourne childhood were buried somewhere in the muscle
memory, but they needed digging up. Again her role model
was a shrewdly chosen one: ‘When I started thinking about
the demeanour or the deportment of what the character might
be, I watched a lot of interviews with Imogen Cooper. There’s
no parallel between her and the character at all, or what the
character says or does. It was more about her intelligence and
the way that she could talk about what it is that she does – the
years of work and practice that she did.’
 

 

People
who are astonishing musicians and who can do magic make
me want to scream with joy. It’s like when you ride a horse,
you have a symbiotic relationship with the horse. By watching
Emese play, I glimpsed that you become one with that
instrument. It’s magic.’