On Shostakovich v. Stalin, supporting Notre-Dame, Mozart’s revolution & more.
Recent links of note:
“Notre Dame is unstable: a strong wind could make the walls collapse, independent report says”
Francesco Bandarin, The Art Newspaper
An assessment of the damage from the April fire at Paris’s Notre-Dame Cathedral revealed that the structure of the building needs reinforcement before the roof and spire can be replaced. Paolo Vannucci, a mechanical engineer at the University of Versailles, found that the cathedral’s walls can no longer withstand winds of more than ninety kilometers per hour. This is because Gothic architecture distributes the massive weight of its stone walls through an “exoskeleton” of columns, flying buttresses, and counter-supports. Much of this support system was damaged or weakened during the fire and is now weighed down by the temporary roof covering. The restoration project will now take longer than the five years that the French President Emmanuel Macron has promised. And it will require a more integrated approach than that exemplified by the hundreds of designs that architects across the world have proposed for the roof and spire, often without considering the rest of the building.
“Mozart: Rational revolutionary”
Stephen Brown, Times Literary Supplement
In this week’s “Grace Notes,” an online series about influential composers in the Times Literary Supplement, Stephen Brown writes about the masterly clarity and simplicity of Mozart’s musical style. Mozart looked to folk songs and nursery rhymes “to find sources for a style free from the weight of tradition,” Brown writes. The author could have made his point with more nuance: folk songs are certainly as much a part of “tradition” as any other kind of music, just a different strain of it. But Mozart streamlined and adapted the highly ornamented Baroque approach to music to produce works that surprised, affected, and delighted his early listeners. His work also reflects a change in the status of the composer as well as the sound of the music: Mozart was the first full-time musical “freelancer,” writing and performing on commission instead of being employed by a patron.
“ ‘How Shostakovich Changed My Mind’ Review: Music and Madness”
Norman Lebrecht, The Wall Street Journal
The BBC journalist Stephen Johnson grew up with a depressive father and an abusive, mentally ill mother. As a teenager, he discovered Shostakovich, whose symphonies allowed Johnson to channel and release the feelings he couldn’t express at home. Later, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Johnson’s most recent book, How Shostakovich Changed My Mind, examines his music’s effects on people with mental illnesses. Johnson traces the liberation and healing found in Shostakovich’s music all the way back to his Fourth Symphony, composed to save his own sanity during Stalin’s Great Terror, and to August 1942, when the composer’s Seventh Symphony was broadcast throughout Leningrad as an act of defiance against the Germans, and changed the lives of those suffering under the dictator, as well. “Each of us comes up against an internal siege of Leningrad,” Norman Lebrecht writes in his Wall Street Journal review, “and music comes to our relief.”
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