The results of Marco Polo’s survey of contemporary Irish music has been somewhat variable, to be honest, but this one is surely a highlight.
Frank Corcoran (b. 1944) studied with Boris Blacher and obviously learned a lot, especially with respect to scoring – indeed, one quality that is immediately striking with all three works here is the marvelously effective use of orchestral resources to create a wonderful range of textures and shimmering colors, with particularly effective use of percussion to drive the themes and developments (and wind instruments for color) but vying with growling, smoldering lower strings.
This is far from easy music, however – mostly uncompromisingly avant-garde, at times reminiscent, perhaps, of Elliott Carter or Henze, but for the most part exhibiting a rather distinctive mode of expression.
Striking themes are introduced to be ripped apart by aggressive strings before the remains are scattered across an ingeniously woven, contrastive tapestry.
It is actually quite fabulous stuff, strongly recommended and given far more than adequate performances here; indeed the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland must have been genuinely inspired by the music, for they drive it on with relentless vigor and fire in a manner that has frankly been missing to a certain degree on other releases in the series.
Sound quality is pretty excellent as well.
Recommended with enthusiasm.