February 4, 2023

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Conductor John Mouseri helps give “Tár” its authentic authenticity

2 min read

The dialogue in Todd Field’s movie “Tár,” about a high-profile classical-music conductor, rings true at every turn. From Cate Blanchett’s speech to Juilliard students to her discussion of the complexities of Mahler’s Fifth, it’s remarkably realistic.

Much of the credit goes to John Moussari, who is screen-credited as “filmmaker’s music advisor”. Mauceri led the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra for 16 seasons, was a longtime colleague of Leonard Bernstein, and conducted concerts around the world.

When Field decided to write a film about a classical conductor, he called Mike Knobloch, president of music and publishing at NBC-Universal, for advice. Knobloch suggested that he approach Mousari, who has a long and enviable track record in both classical music and film music.

“Todd wanted to ask me questions about being a conductor, what it’s like, what we do, what goes on behind the scenes,” says Moussari. diversity. “At one point I said, ‘What’s your favorite symphony?’ And he says five Mahler. I recently did Mahler’s Fifth, talking about my process of learning it, what Mahler wrote and why it was unique in Mahler’s life because he doesn’t give away its inner story.”

In the film, Blanchett’s character prepares to record the famous Mahler symphony and is seen rehearsing it with the Dresden Philharmonic. “Todd and I had many long conversations,” reports Moussari, while recommending his book, “Maestros and Their Music: The Art and Alchemy of Conducting.”

Field drew on their multiple phone calls for many incidents in the final script, although Mousseri did not know the filmmaker was planning to write about a female conductor. Only when he was invited to an early screening of “Tár” did he realize where Field was headed.

“Anecdotes of my life would suddenly appear,” says Mousseri. “At one point, Kate started talking about Stravinsky, and she was literally quoting me,” he adds with some surprise. “I think the movie is brave. There is a lot of truth in this story. It’s not easy, and it takes time. And he’s cast real musicians who are great actors.”

Mauceri was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein (who also claims to be Blanchett’s character) and was impressed by actor-director Bradley Cooper’s upcoming biopic of the longtime New York Philharmonic music director. “It would be interesting to see Bradley Cooper conduct Mahler’s Two,” he says.

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