Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Certainly I will compose a Cello Concerto. How ? Certainly great Dvorak towers. Logical, Lutoslawsky´s Concerto is Music Drama of the highest order. When then ? This blessed night ?!
How then ? ( – Well, eg. for a start, mine is not the tonal option of Dvorak´s lovely and virtuoso washed sheen, his parallel sixths at high orchestral velocity , his aching sequences, cadential constructs and Slavic sighs and beautiful B Minor – yoked functional harmony.
Obvious. No?
I´ll also wish to prepare my very personal version of my personally ” drama” ( “Agony” is a fine word still ), my very own: Solo Versus Orchestra, Great Titan Against Great Many Them, ahem, yes, my ploy´s quite different from the Polish Master´s masterly tension graph. How?
Corcoran must ( once again ) invent his wheel, must sketch his musical syntax for his 2012 – 2013 Cello Concerto. Major principles of musical psychology holding on in the macro-wave , let´s say, so in the micro-wave how´ll he construct his initial “A then B then C” , that beautiful bane of all great composers´ humble musical alphabets after the Final Atonal Revolution? ( – we mean: its latest date was about 1913 – ish, a possible earliest date around Gesualdo, Wagner, such shades ; – but more on this in a near future, my Humble Hamburg Musing, – I have no doubt at all on this, ahem, score. ) . We mean by this, surely, that the poor man must choose even his basic motivic moves , all cello leps, mighty orchestral thin or thick massing, eg. he has to chose , say, ” C, A, Z, B,” etc. plus the well-known , -sung, – heard and -used motivic operations , blah, on this little start.
Follow ? Nein? Okay:
I´ll keep to a scale, seven sturdy notes ( – they often stood me stead ” sa bhearna bhaoil” ).
Neither minor nor major but, yes, Corcoran. With these seven tones, build me then my three great movements, my mighty soloist-plus-orchestra clash by night struggle, my heard accompaniment of My Dark Cello´s Great Song, Lush Dream Sounding. My tones will suffer, sing, die.
high, my post-Dvorak-and-Lutoslawsky


February 9th, 2012 by Frank Corcoran

Certainly I had to study Berg , Beethoven and Max Bruch and them all; how to make my new Concerto sing and soar, how thin out the accompanying orchestra ( eg. I use no tuba, little enough brass, sparing percussion ) to let the violin get lift-off at the opening of my Movement 1.
The Slow Movement then wrote itself, the solo line singing its three ( sad ? – Are they sad ? ) verses before the Cadenza and final wisps of string.
In the fast semiquavers of the last 3. Movement, I composed the lightness of being. So it´s: Fast / Slow / Fast approximately, this well-tried formula of this exciting violin concerto genre. The writing is deliberately pared down. eg. it´s metred, gridded music all through , no complex polyrhythms or controlled aleatory, here clear melodic line and accompaniment .
My work is taut, lean, lyrical, leppin´, a true concerto that looks back and looks forward.It learns from Mozart in the last movement´s fast passage-work. There´s something, – of course there is, of Mendelssohn, Brahms and all the rest in the opening movement´s orchestral tutti pitted against the weak-strong strength of the solo line.
The Slow Movement is certainly a ” Lied Ohne Worte”, pure amhrán. It has to be.
So what´s my whole ( shortish , packed, compact ) orchestral work ? – Un poco “music about music” ? Maybe. As in several recent works ( eg. my 2011 CLARINET QUINTET or the 2008 ” 9 ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM” for Large Choir and Solo Violin ) my building-blocks are a simple 7 – note row : G A flat C sharp D E flat F sharp and A. That´s it. With these seven tones I construct a mighty sounding edifice, in these three movements a concerto ( in full flight) of fiddling fun and violinistic seriousness and art´s sorrow and fast, furious, last orchestral thoughts. “Quasi Un Concerto “? – No, the real thing, but a concerto of our time, my seven tones re-living ( at least a century of violin concerti without being in the least neo-tonal or neo-this and that. I´ll call it also: ” The One And The Many” ; “Four Strings Against The Rest”; or we should subtitle its three supple, subtle movements perhaps: ” Announce The Event” , ” Sighing Song” and “Lightness Is All”.


Not push moving to shove but Great Heat Summer collapsing now, today, into Still Very Hot Autumn, season of mellow, smellow.
Is ripeness all?
Yes, if we include the anima naturaliter ecstatica. Good art needs high ecstasy, the glory of the urge to create, to burst, the quill spilling over, the High Point, a GREAT shout in the Joycean street…. Hooray has to meet Anger,
Wallop should meld into Batedebejaysus orchestrally, a sigh or a smile or a sob to melt your entrails. Keep it Baroque, Bach !
Walnuts ripen. Vegetable marrows and vines and olives…. why not the composer now ?

FRANK CORCORAN IN “Cross Currents” Broadcasts. Autumn 2016 .

Cross Currents is a three-part music documentary series exploring Irish composers’ work from 1975 to 1985 and the present day.

This decade was a defining period for music in Ireland with a number of major talents blossoming. Arguably, this was the era in which Irish contemporary music came of age, shedding its self-conscious image and becoming more international, in keeping with much of the wider political and economic developments in the country at the time.

By comparing and contrasting this decade with the contemporary music scene of today, the programmes will tell the story of new music in Ireland and will draw together the different strands in music running between both periods. How has composition in Ireland changed? Has the role of the composer in Irish society shifted in the intervening years? To what extent has digital technology changed how composers work?

Through the use of extensive archival footage and recordings from the RTÉ Sound Archives, and with contributions from a wide selection of composers and musicians active during both periods, the series will bring the listener on a journey of this key period in Irish music history, and will bring alive the many musical developments, creative and personal stories, and link them with the present day.


QUASI UNA STORIA 2013 March 17 to May 17 . I could see the 13
strings on my stage – double bass and two celli on the extreme right.
Choirs,sections, colours, soli and tutti, too. Storify its bits and
pieces; is that introduction right ? A violin solo ?

2012 was CELLO CONCERTO year – mighty 4 movements – the Slow Movement
has my new singing; the third Scherzo may be the most brutal I´ve ever
attempted – great horn interjections in unisoni or only two-voiced,
bucina – terror with the percussion. My rhythmic pattern of 5,4,3,4,5
beats in the bar is just right to control this violence.
Great cello – up to dizziest heights

Of course the birth in sound of the Violin Concerto ( of 2011 ) and
the International IFCM Prize for the choral EIGHT HAIKUS ( of 2010 )
triggered good internal monologue for, I hope, the future. What future
? That Manila October 5 2013 premiere will lift me and them – lead to
other performances ? Incl. N.C.C. ?

FIVE TENORLIEDER still no prospects of a performance – lovely
tessitura and use of my own damn good texts.

Same for 4 PIECES FOR 2 CLARINETS …. courageously thought, shaped.

Same for RHAPSODIC BOWING ; swooning 8 Celli.

You got to be tough to keep going, keep imagining in the vast
loneliness. The 2013 New York birth of VARIATIONS ON MYSELF did work –
but central tempi and a few wind aleatory places need more dynamics
fine-tuned… Good string-quintet versus wind-quintet. Also my 2011
SONGS OF TERROR AND LOVE – 5 ” Pierrot” instruments against great (
Englishing plus original ) texts. ” Stabat Mater” suffused, really; goes
deep back to my sixties, or earlier.

Recent 7 CUBIST MINIATURES for Guitar, Viola and Flute ( September
2013 , eh? in Wales ? ) are perfect.

Small GRAND DUO ( Harp and Cello ), harp solo IN THE DEEP HEART´S CORE
( watch its Errata ) – a new spontaneity. Keep it up.

Choral CAOINE by Frank Corcoran

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Frank Corcoran | The Journal of Music

Since 1983 Frank Corcoran has been Professor of Composition and Theory in the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Hamburg.
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Celebrating Frank Corcoran at 70 | The Journal of Music

A concert celebrating the work of composer Frank Corcoran will take place at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin on Thursday 26 November at 8pm. Beginning with an …
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Frank Corcoran is from Tipperary in Ireland. He moved to Dublin to study firstly, and went on to Maynooth, Rome and lastly Berlin to study with Boris Blacher.
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‘I came late to art music; childhood soundscapes live on. The best work with imagination/intellect must be exorcistic-laudatory- excavatory. I am a passionate believer in “Irish” dream-landscape, two languages, polyphony of history, not ideology or programme. No Irish composer has yet dealt adequately with our past. The way forward – newest forms and technique (for me especially macro-counterpoint) – is the way back to deepest human experience.’

Frank Corcoran was born in Tipperary and studied in Dublin, Maynooth, Rome and Berlin (with Boris Blacher). He was the first Irish composer to have his ‘Symphony No. 1’ (1980) premiered in Vienna.

He was a music inspector for the Department of Education in Ireland from 1971 to 1979. He was awarded a composer fellowship by the Berlin Künstlerprogramm in 1980, a guest professorship in West Berlin in 1981, and was professor of music in Stuttgart in 1982. Since 1983 he has been professor of composition and theory in the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst, Hamburg. During 1989-90 he was visiting professor and Fulbright Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and he has been a guest lecturer at Princeton University, CalArts, Harvard University, Boston College, New York University and Indiana University.

His works have been performed and broadcast in Europe, Asia, USA, Canada and South America. He has been commissioned by NDR, RTÉ, the Arts Council, U.W.M., Sender Freies Berlin, W.D.R., Deutschlandfunk, North South Consonance New York, Dublin Living Music Festival, Cantus Chamber Orchestra Zagreb, Dublin Festival of Twentieth Century Music, AXA International Piano Competition, Wireworks Hamburg, Slí Nua, RTÉ lyric fm, Now U Know Washington, New Music Boston, Carroll’s Summer Music, Book of Kells U.W.M., Crash Ensemble, Hamburg Ministry of Culture, Tonhalle Düsseldorf, Stuttgart Bläserquintett, the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the National Chamber Choir of Ireland.

Awards include Studio Akustische Kunst First Prize 1996 for his ‘Joycepeak Music’ (1995), Premier Prix at the 1999 Bourges International Electro-acoustic Music Competition for his composition ‘Sweeney’s Vision’ (1997) and the 2002 Swedish EMS Prize for ‘Quasi Una Missa’ (1999). He was also awarded the 1972 Feis Ceoil Prize, the 1973 Varming Prize and the 1975 Dublin Symphony Orchestra Prize. More recently he won the Sean Ó Riada Award at the Cork International Choral Festival 2012 for his ‘Two Unholy Haikus’. His ‘Eight Haikus’ for large choir won first prize outright in the 2013 International Federation For Choral Music. CDs of his music have been released on the Black Box, Marco Polo, Col-Legno, Wergo, Composers’ Art, IMEB-Unesco, Zeitklang and Caprice labels. Frank Corcoran is a founding member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.
Eugene Langan
Four Orchestral Prayers

Concerto for String Orchestra

Quasi una Storia

My Alto Rhapsodies

Nine Looks at Pierrot

Cello Concerto

A Dark Song

In the Deep Heart’s Core

Four Pieces for Two Clarinets

Rhapsodic Bowing


Eight Haikus

Five Lieder for Tenor and Pian…

Songs of Terror and Love

Two Unholy Haikus

Clarinet Quintet

Quasi una Perla

Quasi una Sarabande

Violin Concerto

Nine Pratoleva Pearls

Quasi un Preludio

The Light Gleams

Quasi un Basso

Súil – Saol

Quasi una Fuga

Tradurre Tradire

Quasi un Concerto

Quasi un Lamento

Quasi una Missa

String Quartet No. 3

Buile Suibhne

Ice – Etchings No. 2



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Elektrisk helg” festival i Malmö

“Elektrisk helg” heter en två dagar lång festival som arrangeras i Malmö 9-11 maj.
Arrangörer är föreningen Ars Nova, Musik i Syd och Sveriges Radio P2, som spelar in festivalprogrammet och sänder det i radio i månadsskiftet april-maj.

Bland de deltagande musikerna finns altviolinisten Garth Knox som framför nyskrivna verk av tonsättaren Richard Karpen, som själv kommer till festivalen.

Under helgen framförs även Sten Hansons verk för högtalare, dansare och sångkvartett “John Carter Songbook”. Den irländske tonsättaren Frank Corcoran framför sina verk “Mad Sweeney” och “Sweeney´s vision”.


Elektrisk helg” festival i Malmö

“Elektrisk helg” heter en två dagar lång festival som arrangeras i Malmö 9-11 maj.
Arrangörer är föreningen Ars Nova, Musik i Syd och Sveriges Radio P2, som spelar in festivalprogrammet och sänder det i radio i månadsskiftet april-maj.

Bland de deltagande musikerna finns altviolinisten Garth Knox som framför nyskrivna verk av tonsättaren Richard Karpen, som själv kommer till festivalen.

Under helgen framförs även Sten Hansons verk för högtalare, dansare och sångkvartett “John Carter Songbook”. Den irländske tonsättaren Frank Corcoran framför sina verk “Mad Sweeney” och “Sweeney´s vision”.


Scribo ergo sum. Certainly it is I who am writing this. So I exist. These few lines of thought-out woffle also. So
I compose words . I write tones, periods, washes and masses, thin or thick, diagonal harmonies , dialogues
between my instrumental lines; all these intervals, heavy with Pythagoras, all emanate; they create aura or stir up ancient emotions and associations, atavistic
memories .
Take the current new work for Clarinet and Strings. I struggle with its form, forms, how it will all hang
togetherin the sweet by and by. I will solve it all. I believe. I must believe.Whether ever a living soul or a listening ear hears and delights.
My time gainsdignity; this play matters . Who shall separate the whistle?
I’ll write on. I exist alright , also the tones and words I’ve composed. Oh yes…. Dig on.


June 1 and 2 in Dublin’s National Concert Hall the Irish National Symphony Orchestra with soloist , Martin Johnson, and conductor, Gavin Moloney, recorded all four movements of my ( 2015 in Dublin premiered ) CELLO CONCERT.
I was gob-smacked and gob-whipped.
The ears of the young Nordklang ( Berlin ) / RTE – Lyric Fm production unit for my cello music were awesome; the
N.S.O. ( – Yes, they had over the years premiered so many Frank Corcoran orchestralia orchestraliorum with great success ) was highly motivated, molto concentrated.
I heard my CELLO CONCERTO – being born literally new,
the thrill of a bar of bass clarinet or a dab of double bassoon, sheer Old Roman Army bucina terror of my 4 unison french horns in the unleashed violence of the third movement, oboe and a clarinet with Dvorak’s hymn – lightly chromaticized – at the lyrical beginning of the Slow Movement.
Astonishing ! Young ears. Great young ears, the players and the conductor and my C.D. – Producer –

PEERLESS Martin Johnson’s mighty Solo Cello, its ebbs and flows and sfumature, every detail , all and every