You’d be forgiven for having never heard of world-famous composer/conductor Lydia Tár, the first woman to become chief conductor of a German orchestra. That’s because she doesn’t really exist.


What is TÁR about?

Writer/director Todd Field makes a long-awaited return to the directing chair after his riveting dramas In the Bedroom and Little Children, with this fascinating psychological drama about the very essence of making music. More specifically, perhaps, it’s about a woman artist stepping into a role with connotations of male dominance, even tyranny.

TÁR stars Cate Blanchett in the title role, and it’s a role Field wrote expressly with the Australian actor in mind. The word on the street is that it’s another mesmerising performance from Blanchett, who is surely the greatest of her generation.

What music features in TÁR?

The film is of course a fiction, though it could so easily be true. Oscar-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir has composed the score, but the musical world of TÁR is anything but traditional. Guðnadóttir scores the film of course, but she also creates the music we see (ansd hear) being composed in the film by Lydia Tár. In that sense Lydia Tár is played not only by Cate Blanchett, but by Hildur Guðnadóttir also.

As the conductor of a major German orchestra, you’d expect some weighty classical music and that’s very much the case. The film features Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, Elgar’s Cello Concerto and JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, among other things.

Who performs the music in TÁR

The film’s musical world has many elements and participants, either seen and heard within the film itself, or applying music to the exterior soundworld of it. Blanchett herself plays the piano in the film on screen, and even conducts. The Dresden Philharmonic play as her on-screen orchestra and the actor presides over their performance of Mahler’s Fifth.

British cellist Sophie Kauer makes her acting debut in the film as fictional cellist Olga Metkina, and Kauer performs Elgar’s Cello Concerto in the film. She recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Natalie Murray Beale.

Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music, whether that heard as being composed bt Tár in the story, or her won dramatic score, is performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra under conductor Robert Ames.

Is there a soundtrack album for TÁR?

Deutsche Grammophon have worked closely with Todd Field and Hildur Guðnadóttir on an album to accompany the film. But it’s not your tradition soundtrack album. The album for TÁR is very much a concept album, featuring the sound of rehearsals, ideas and thoughts about the music.

The listener is immersed in a disjointed creative process as we hear music inspired by the film, but not featured in it; music being created for it, but not in its entirety. These snippets of recordings, moments of dialogue conjure the very real ebb and flow of the creative process, which is sometimes stopped in its tracks for comment or another go. The album is released on 21 October.

When is TÁR released?

The film has already received premiere screenings at film festivals in Venice, Toronto and Telluride. It is out in the US on 7 October, followed by a wider release on 28 October. UK cinemagoers, however, will need to wait until 20 January.


Main image: Cate Blanchett poses with the Coppa Volpi as best actress for her role in TÁR (Ⓒ Getty Images


Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.