Born in Wales and a graduate of Oxford University, Garreth Broke is a pianist and composer now based in Frankfurt, Germany. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2015, the musician self-released his début solo piano album Coping Mechanism in January 2016 last. Dominated by the themes of “resilience and optimism amid grief”, the album is an emotionally-charged collection of compositions inspired by traditional folk melodies and contemporary minimalist piano music.
Saudade is a well-known Portuguese language term expressing an emotional longing for an absent person, a profound nostalgia for a place or past experiences. With the word Sehnsucht, the German language articulates a similar feeling.
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past
and by extension a yearning for the families, friends and communities associated with these places, the lesser known Welsh word Hiraeth shares a common ground with both. This expression of longing dominates Garreth Broke’s solo piano album on several different levels.
With most tracks composed as elaborate suites, the music on Coping Mechanism explores this sentiment of homesickness following the musician’s move to Germany on the “Hiraeth suite” for instance. Other much more personal compositions like the title track, “Mum” or “Chest” delve into the musician’s personal grief following the long struggle with depression and tragic passing of his own mother.
Conveying contrasting mood states and mirroring the ups and downs of life, the pianist constantly shifts between key signatures and between “sections of gentle calm and deep sadness” within the same tunes while also introducing brighter improvised sections.
Elsewhere, “In the bleak midwinter” is a beautiful piano version based on the Gustav Holst’s setting of the eponymous Christmas carol by Christina Rossetti.
The CD booklet and cover artwork features six original paintings by the musician’s partner Anna Salzmann. The pieces were created “in response to the music while Garreth was composing”, or was it the other way around?
For both of us, music and art are a way of exploring difficult personal subjects. […] Everyone develops coping mechanisms. My coping mechanism is playing the piano. Garreth Broke