From the point of view of gender, the ‘strong music’ system has always been a disaster. Setting aside opera, where women had the upper hand on men in the 1700s and 1800s, the sector has always been dominated by male talent. As far as orchestra conduction goes, Antonia Brico is one of the few women out there, and she is referenced to often in the film. She was internationally recognized and her career included the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as well as other top-tier orchestras in the USA. Today, women are given more and more space in the sector.
The problem is that the process is slow: out of 600 conductors of prominent international orchestras, a mere 20 are women. In the film, Lydia Tár has one goal: be the conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The Berliner is the ultimate aspiration of any conductor – they are the best, most famous orchestra in the world. They’re not merely an orchestra, either, they are a brand, a sound, a repertoire. The story revolves around three moments of strong music: a partita by Bach, the adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth, and Elgar’s cello concert in E minor.
We must confess that Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score (Hildur is the Oscar-awarded composer of the score for Joker) we never really listened to, with the exception of the end credits piece. It just slipped us, maybe guiltily so, maybe for us being too absorbed into the main classical pieces… An incident, if you will.