Ergodos Musicians’ ‘I Call to You’ is a collection of minimalist expressions based on a single work, a Lutheran hymn / cantata by Bach; Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639). Apart from showcasing Irish composers, Ergodos keep abreast with contemporary musical techniques and beautifully presents them to Irish audiences.
The first track, Garret Sholdice’s transcripion of Johan Sebastian Bach’s Ich Ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ is a interesting hybrid of genres. Musical purists may scoff at the notion of any Bach composition being transferred to a Steinway, particularly considering the chorale cantata is now most commonly played on organ, yet the piano certainly adds a heaviness not commonly associated with the work. There is no baroque ornamentation, however, and apart from a slight slowing at the end neither is there any overt romantic expression, so one never quite knows in what epoch to categorise this in. The block chords in the left hand methodically follow the melody in the right hand, as some faithfulness to the original work is maintained.
Benedict Schlepper-Connolly’s Ich bin, erhör mein Klagen begins with extended cello techniques and violin, with sparse notes played on piano, setting an ambience rather similar to Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel. This piece gains momentum in the second section when vocalist Michelle O’Rourke sings sustained notes over an erratic piano melody and more forthright strings. After the timbre becomes darker, the ambience of before returns, but with slightly more dissonance, almost a poignant reflection of the unpredictable previous section.
A similar mood is carried into Jonathan Nagle’s short piece for piano and cello, also entitled Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. A chord in the piano is slowly elaborated on by strings. The pensive piano playing dictates a sombre mood, which is exasperated by the dissonances in strings and the use of silence, as well as pedals to lengthen soft notes in the piano.
Sholdice’s Verleih mir Gund zu dieser Frist begins with an energy and direction provided from the piano motif, as it supports the vocal line. The other instruments, then glide over this to create blissfully dissonances. As the piece progresses the metre changes, the motif is elaborated and briefly disappears and the dissonance is brasher. As the piece moves towards a conclusion, the timbre lightens, leaving just the suitably soft voice and occasional note from the accompaniment.
Simon O’Connor’s Ich ruf zu dirr, Herr Jesu Christ begins with the most up-tempo moment of the album. A light pattern in piano is quickly overpowered by clarinet, with strings then creating a dense texture. The dissonance varies from soft to more intense throughout. After various dialogues between the instruments, the piano then dictates a more buoyant mood, only for the strings to eventually exert authority and bring back a feeling of serenity as the piece comes to a close.
Sholdice’s original composition of Ich Ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ begins with a secure tonality not heard since his transcription of Bach in the first track. After five tracks of minimalist character, sparse tonal chords are played, mainly in the upper register of the piano. The progressions are uncomplicated, but played with such sentiment and delicacy by Michael McHale that this short piece is equally as meditative as the previous six.
Ergodos play sometimes challenging compositions with a competence and devotion that allows for the listener to become immersed in them, rather than feel alienated. Although metres change and tonal centres disappear, Erdogos play with a delicacy which is very pleasing for the listener.