Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Irish ” Intellectuals ” ?

” Similarly, while Michael Dungan’s analysis of Gerald Barry’s work in ‘In the Time of the Celtic Tiger’ is colourful, his discussion of the music of Raymond Deane, John Kinsella and Frank Corcoran rarely goes beneath the surface, providing the kind of writing that would compel one to listen to their works. ”


This below was 2015 …. but watch HERE

for 2017 Summer Concerts !

Teatro Mancinelli – Orvieto
Venerdì 31 luglio ore 21

Piccolo Teatro Cavour – Bolsena
Domenica 2 Agosto ore 21.15


Solisti della National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland:
Martin Johnson – Violoncello
Adele Johnson – Viola
Fergal Caulfield – Pianoforte
( Musiche di Schubert, Frank Corcoran, Popper e Brahms )


1990 it was. Yes.
I was a Fellow at the Virginia Centre for Creative Artists
VCCA at lovely Sweet Briar. I remember their generosity, this exploding jungle, the light in the crippling July heat.
The week before I drove across from Milwaukee to the Blue Ridge Mountains ( as I made a car-stop on a hot, hot road, my son, Andreas, leaped across a nest of rattlesnakes beside us and lived to tell the tale… ) , Joe the Cook’s brother had fallen into the water from his flat fishing boat in a dark corner ( dense trees ) of the lake; he’d drowned under, well, mysterious circumstances. – Don’t ask the police anything , was my fellow Fellows’ advice.
Well, every morning Joe welcomed the big black snake – from the big black tree in the Fellows’ Park – for breakfast at the kitchen-door. Every morning it then slowly wallowed back to its
tree to digest it . Aghast, I watched ( – I have kept a photograph of us both ). Later in the even greater heat I’d swim in the impenetrable lake, fearful of all giant, biting tortoises which would plop down suddenly from the trees and making a great noise…
It was advisable to keep a sharp eye out for all the Virginia flora and fauna.
Most of the Fellows were well-known New York painters. A few poets wrote in the great temperatures. My friend, Eddie Clift, great professor of photography, composed high-quality
pictures. I composed high tones.
One evening we put on ( for ourselves ) a concertante version of my gestating opera, “GILGAMESH ” , which was all about death-in-life and life-in-death.
I have never, never forgotten Sweetbriar, VCCA.


January 19. 2010. National Concert Hall. 13.00

“Horizons” Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra , Chloe Hinton, soprano, Conductor : Colman Pearce.

Featured composer : Frank Corcoran

12.30 SHARP ( ! ) The Composer Speaks

Frank Corcoran: FOUR PRAYERS for Mezzosoprano and Orchestra . ( World-premiere )

In these four orchestral lieder, the orchestra accompanies the singer; it “sets” and sings and carries and colours the texts and, yes, prays them. ( Music has from the beginning had its role in the Eleusinian mysteries and, much earlier, in Old Babylon and Egypt ) .
Lied One fuses John Scotus Eriugena´s staggering God – text, ” Deus est. Non est. Superest.” – ” God is. God is not. God is beyond ” IS” ” ) with the Irish saying, “Aithníonn súil liath saol liath” ( ” It is a grey eye which sees the world as grey”. ) . Strings and wood-winds sing with the soprano-line; percussion washes it.

Lied Two treats Henry Lyte´s traditional Victorian hymn, ” Abide with me “. ( It was this melody the band played over and over as the great ship “Titanic” sank to its icy Atlantic grave…. ) . What once might have been saccharine has become steel. Its intervals buckle and are chromatically crushed until, at the end, brake-drums and brass are also shrieking the singer´s “Abide!”

Lied Three sets an amazing, anonymous two-liner which I found over the Neo-Classical lintel of a Hamburg 18th. c. villa. I use the German : ” Wir bauen hier so feste / Und sind doch fremde Gäste! Und wo wir sollen ewig sein /
bauen wir so wenig ein!” – in my English it goes : ” We´re building here so free / Our jolly building-spree ! But where we should endure , there we´re so unsure!” with the Pauline: ” We´ve here no lasting city ! We build and build like mad – a pity ! ” which become a breathless, sardonic and bitter vocal Scherzo.

Lied Four composes Meister Eckhart´s ecstatic God – text . With its prelude , interludes and postlude of massed , muted brass it aims for the final rapt ” Ewig, ” ( “Eternal” ) with deep pulsing harp, celesta and crotales.

Frank Corcoran. QUASI UNA FUGA . World-premiere of this revised version ( 2009 ) for full orchestra .

This is in no way a neo-Baroque or neo-Bach one-movement work. It is and it is not a fugue for 56 strings. It is ” quasi” a fugue; the ascending “soggetto” is there, also its accompanying counter-subject . All is counterpoint ; everything is built out of the interval of the second . Fragments and smidiríní of the “theme” ( really a major-minor 12-tone scale, nothing more…. ) are heard in hundreds of bits and pieces until at the end it all morphs into the Early Celtic chant, ” Ibunt Sancti”. Was this the hymn which St. Brendan The Navigator and his twelve merry monks sang before having dinner on the broad back of an Atlantic whale somewhere up there near Greenland, around the year 550 or so …. ?

NOVELETTE for Full Orchestra . Witold Lutoslawski ( 1978 -79 )

Fifteen times the mighty opening chord yells, announcing the five short movements of this orchestral narrative. The Polish master calls them simply ” Announcement, First Event, Second Event, Third Event” and the accumulative ” Conclusion”. His orchestral palette is , as always full of the most beautiful and refined instrumental colours.

( Composer´s Notes )


Performance begins at 8pm.

Frank Corcoran, James Joyce and the Poetics of Myth: A Celebration of Frank Corcoran at 70

The James Joyce Centre, Benjamin Dwyer and the Association of Irish Composers are proud to present this very special concert celebrating the life and work of Irish composer Frank Corcoran. Featuring a keynote address by Benjamin Dwyer, a number of performances by world-class musicians and even a few world premières for good measure, this is […]

ALTO RHAPSODIES for Orchestra and Contralto….

1. Alto Rhapsody / High, pure, soar, sear, white, high, fly / My orchestra snores !

2. For the womb the seed sighs / Turn and thrash and disappear / The high silence drowned .

3. ( as ” PRIOSUN CLUAIN MEALA” ) Just one year ago / I strutted to Ardpatrick / To lace my bonnet. / / Next Friday they will / Shove my head upon a pike / Snowing on my soul.

4. Suppose God is light ? / My eye tries to see itself / Soft horns! Clarinets !

5. Whisper ” Tramonto ” / Tiptoe through my dark window / Well is this, then, death ?


Frank Corcoran (1944-); IRL
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Select your collection:RecordingsFree Play

Recordings: 4 tracks
Various Works

Various Works 4 tracks
Symphony No.3 1 track
Symphony No.2 2 tracks
Symphony No.4 1 track

20 January 2012 – 1:21pm
Submitted by root_admin

Mad Sweeney; Music for the Book of Kells; Wind Quintet; Sweeney’s Vision
Frank Corcoran (speaker); Das Neue Werk NDR Ensemble, Percussion Modern/Dieter Cichewiecz, Stuttgart Wind Quintet/Willy Freivogel
Black Box
Catalogue Number:
BBM 1026
There’s an enticing new-music culture in Ireland, and though much of its product is rarely heard in English concert venues (or Welsh or Scottish, one suspects), these releases from Black Box will play their part in fostering a closer awareness of the subject. While Frank Corcoran and John Buckley represent the middle generation, being born in 1944 and 1951 respectively, Gráinne Mulvey and Deirdre Gribbin are of younger stock, of 1966 and 67 vintage, so the range is evenly balanced both in age and gender. Through the medium of chamber music each composer focuses on an aspect of poetic understanding that avoids, with Corcoran’s exception, the issue of a distinctly national idiom. Corcoran writes music for the Book of Kells, and for Heaney’s translation of the Middle Irish text Mad Sweeney. His ‘macro counterpoint’ and bright and stormy sounds evoking the truth of the Irish dream landscape sound less well in performance than in his description.