"I Call to You I Call to You/Listen to My Lament/Give me Grace in this life/Do not let me Fail/ Let me Forgive from the Depths of my Heart, Forgive Forgive."
Thus the English translation of a Lutheran hymn which once formed the basis for Johann Sebastian Bach's stirring and profoundly moving organ chorale prelude, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639).
For this beautifully atmospheric new record, Irish artists Garrett Sholdice, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Jonathan Nangle and Simon O’Connor have each composed new interpretations or readings of the Bach piece, including two songs among the versions.
The musicians involved are vocalist Michelle O’Rourke, clarinettist Jonathan Sage, violinist Clíodhna Ryan, cellist William Butt and pianist Michael McHale. Each of them brings impressive empathy and love to this deeply imaginative project, perhaps the most important record of new Irish music released this year.
Over repeated listenings, you sense how the composers lean gracefully and respectfully in towards the core piece, which lies much like TS Eliot's "patient etherised upon a table" in the poem The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.
Thus, the Bach organ chorale prelude is etherised, and the Irish surgeons of musical composition have held their stethoscopes to listen closely, before applying their pliant hands to the great composer's counterpoint.
Tremulous piano, slowly drawn cello bow, beautifully appointed clarinet and violin are aiming for a kind of spellbound haven of peace. The silence between the tracks is loaded and full of mystery. All the personalities involved seem to have imbibed the exact timbre, the acute fervour of the original prayer, the fragile sinner's uncertainty and plea for goodness.
Michelle O'Rourke's majestic singing is of the kind one associates with Górecki's Symphony No 3, or Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. I Call to You is a powerful and musically coherent enterprise, available on download and CD.