Permacrisis, Permagloom and Harmonies No.10

As Collins dictionary recently announced its new word of the year, “permacrisis”, defined as “an extended period of instability and insecurity”, it seems overdue for the Grumpy Hobbit to release another “Harmonies” video. Just after the first snowdrop has emerged in the garden, it’s a reminder for me that there’s much to celebrate outside in the other, alternative, natural world. This October has been typically wet, mild, and grey here, with 249 mm of rain, 5 rain-free days, and no frosts. It’s the equal fifth warmest October for Wales, apparently, according to the latest Met Office reports.

My plan is to now work back through the period from September to May, during the wetter, shorter autumnal days ahead, and in typically unconventional fashion “Harmonies No. 5″ will be the last to appear. However, I’ll then be close to completing a video record of life in the garden and landscape in 2022. My initial motivation for these pieces was as a positive response to the terrible disaster and war in Ukraine, an ongoing tragedy which seems likely to drag on through the coming winter. For all the previous seasonal “Harmonies”, click here.

In putting this current “Harmonies” together, I’m once again indebted to Musopen, and the performers featured for allowing their work to be accessible in this way. 3 of the pieces were new discoveries for me (those by Granados, Debussy and Schumann).

For those unfamiliar with Granados’ work, as I was, he was a classically trained Spanish pianist and composer, most famous for his piano suite Goyesca inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya. After its premiere in 1911, he was encouraged to develop the concept, so wrote an opera based on it in 1914. Its European premiere was delayed by the outbreak of World War I, so instead had its world premiere in 1916 in America.

In spite of his fear of the ocean he was persuaded to travel to the U.S.A. to attend. A delay in his timetable in New York caused by several requests to give piano recitals, including at the White House, meant he missed his ship back to Spain. Instead, he booked a trip on a boat to England, and then boarded the SS Sussex ferry, bound for Dieppe. The ferry was torpedoed by a German submarine, and Granados and his wife left the ship in a lifeboat, and subsequently both drowned. Ironically, the ship had broken in two following the explosion of the torpedo – one half sank, the other, which was where the Granados’ cabin was, remarkably stayed afloat and was later towed into port. If he had stayed aboard the ship in his cabin, he would have survived

His 6 part piece Escenas romanticas (‘ Romantic Scenes ‘) was first performed in 1904, and the movement selected for my video is the final short section, Epilogo. For those who’d rather just listen to this, there seem few YouTubes available of its performance – I found this old recording by Spanish pianist, Alicia de Larrocha, where the emotional charge of the piece is captured very well.

The Robert Schumann “3 Romances – II – Einfach, innig (simple, heartfelt) ” I included to finish the Harmonies video was actually, unusually, written as an oboe/piano piece, and published much earlier than the Granados, in 1849. As a contrast to the piano transcription in my video, it’s well worth also listening to in this performance, by Céline Moinet (oboe) and Florian Uhlig (piano), in a very well filmed video:

So, that concludes this attempt to focus on more positive things, and dispel any thoughts of “permagloom”. Defined by me as an “extended period of confrontational reporting and discussions surrounding any news item”, which seems to have been the default hunting ground for much of the media for many years.