Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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Do not weaken or waver.
Keep going.
Hear the musical forms.
Write them for a potential audience.
But first write for me. For inner hearing. For the serenity of meaning . Value. Only then make:
A Confession In The Cold Glasblaeser

Perhaps there NEVER, ever was even a modest wave of support , understanding or acceptance here for New Music in our 20 c.
? Perhaps all you had was those brave
moral heroes of the Second Viennese School before the Nazi thirties ? ( Schoenberg’s hasty departure, Berg’s early death and Webern’s total lonely
loon in his Austrian Alps ? )

Since then you had (im)modest little footlings of composers in Munich and Berlin , WDR’s blandishments in the sixties and seventies ( I am bracketing out Poland and Paris here, also Ligeti’s Luck ) ?

Certainly here in Ham and in Burg the woeful few Hogskool Concerts in my eighties and nineties were not to be trusted … But one was thankful for the few thrown crusts.
And I remember well all those well-meaning “Schulmusik” publications and books on New Music In The Schools etc., mostly pap.


And NO kind of understanding percolating down to your intellectual, to a public or private ; no acceptance of these lonely heroes, no kind of parallel at all with , say, the
accepted development of pictorial arts or literary productions or avant-garde theatre, let alone film .

The world-ocean of musical bilge and cowardly media contributed , certainly. No journalist prepared to call a spade a spade, popular shit as sonic shit. Seldom
analytic light cast on the marketing of punks and pricks and rocks and cunts and pricks and raps , whether American or helots.

A bit bleak .


Frank Corcoran


For years I´d wanted to compose a Concerto for Cello and big orchestra – my singing David against its mighty Goliath . But I didn´t trust myself to face what
is, yes,
a mighty challenge until I´d first composed my Violin Concerto which Christopher Warren-Green premiered with the NSO and great soloist, Alan Smale, in
Nov. 2012 .
I’d worked closely with Alan as he prepared his Concerto ; his advice to me , the composer, was ” Frank, SING IT !” And this same advice was vital
as, one year later, I began work on this even bigger Corcoran Concerto for the mighty cello – bow of Martin Johnson.

This four movement work has even greater proportions ; this
solo instrument has to face an even bigger orchestral battle .

It sings and soars, somewhere between Dvorak ´s and Lutoslawski´s epic works.

The opening reveals a broad gesture for trumpets and brass which will
return several times , quasi a ” motto” theme.
My Slow Movement would tear the heart out of you, the cello´s beautiful cantilena weaving, sobbing,
The searing Scherzo, with its huge battery of percussion is the most violent music I ever wrote….
The music winds down then in the last, meditative finale.



1. 3. Introd. ” e Deo scire non possumus ”

quid sit !” ( ” Concerning God we cannot know WHAT (S)He is ” …. )

In my three full theologian’s years in Roma at the ( most Papal ) Universita del

Laterano, my magic years there were 1961 – 64

nobody ever, ever, ever pointed this God-text out. To me.

Why ?


After Bartok , Ligeti and Lutoslawski how can I write something hot and strange ?

On May 1. 2019 I will be SEVENTY FIVE . My new quartet aims for tension, unity. How ?



Everything must flow from

the opening bar of Mov. 1. , ” Allegro irascibile ma nobile ” .

Bar One’s motiv yells for an electric tautness from each instrument. Each uses the same “Corcoran notes” ( G . A flat . C sharp and D ) .

– My Leitmotiv provides the building-blocks for my entire first movement ;

each phrase. each ainstrumental colour and tonal region,all my derived motivs ,

these musical protests or denials, they must all come out of that Bar One ?

Yes, my architectural ideal here is that of the great string quartets , Stravinsky’s Three Pieces , Webern , Schoenberg and Alban Berg
….Late Beethoven.

Movement Two is a play of those naughty pizzicati quintuplets versus arco chords, a celebration of these melodies which I weave out of ( my ?) Frank Corcoran 7 -Note Sca

Movement Three is marked “Allegro Barbaro ” and ” feroce e ruvidissimo ” .

The throbbing dyads shift and interlock , descend or ascend,- they saw the torture.

High voltage. Kinetic art. Take your pick. Guantanamo or Gethsemane .


Hi Frank.

Here is our definitive programme for Orvieto MANCINELLI THEATRE and Bolsena PICCOLO TEATRO CAVOUR :

Lily Boulanger- Nocturne

Frank Corcoran- Hot Dialogues

Esposito- Alba

Chris Corcoran- Deep Blue Windows

Puccini- Foglio d’Album

Petr Eben- Fantasy for Viola and organ (arr. for piano)

Enescu- Concertstuck.

I hope this is Ok.

By our calculations this is c.55 mins of music.


John Cage (1912-1992): Concert for prepared piano and chamber orchestra (1951), Fourteen (1940), Concert for piano and orchestra (1958), 4:33 (1962), Imaginary Landscape IV und V (1951), Rocks (1984), Suite for Toy Piano (1948)
Herbert Callhoff (*1933): Tombeau für Sopran und Ensemble (2005)
Elliott Carter (*1908): Our Challenge and our Love (1995), Liumen für Ensemble (1997), A Mirror on which to dwell (1975), Inner Song für Oboe solo (1982)
Benet Casablancas (*1956): New epigramms for chamber orchestra (1997)
Friedrich Cerha (*1926): Acht Sätze nach Hölderlin-Fragmenten für Streichsextett (1995), Catalogue des objets trouvés (1969), jahrlang ins ungewisse hinab für großes Ensemble (1995/96), Musik für Posaune und Streichquartett (2004)
Niccolo Castiglioni (*1932): Consonante, für Flöte und Kammerorchester (1962), Gymel des objets trouvés für Flöte und Klavier (1969)
Christof Cech (*1960): Adam für zwei Violoncelli und Klavier
Hae-Kyung Choi (*1964): Stimmung für zwei Trompeten, Horn, Posaune und Tuba (1996/2002; Denis Cohen (*1952): Doppi versi la luna (1989/90)
Frank Corcoran (*1944): Concertini of Ice für Ensemble (1993) UA
Chaya Czernowin (*1957): Lovesong for mixed ensemble (2010)


Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin
10–13 April 2019

Music Current 2019 programme online

Dear Friends,

DUBLIN SOUND LAB is pleased to announce the Music Current 2019 festival programme is now online –

Considered as the ‘Fringe’ of Irish new music festivals, Music Current is a platform for the newest contemporary music, hosting five concerts over four days. Now in its fourth year, the festival programme has a decidedly theatrical flavour, featuring Steven Kazuo Takasugi’s concert-length masterwork Sideshow, in which Swiss Ensemble Tzara ‘perform’ in the theatrical sense. The theatrical theme continues with another Swiss group Retro Disco who take inspiration from Dadaist aesthetics to create absurdist performances.

The festival opens with a double-bill programme: SWEENEY LIVES ! featuring three major ‘radiophonic’ work by Irish electronic music pioneer, FRANK CORCORAN.



Fu ! Non c’e pi’u – he passed away… Er starb, der Freund und Komponist Ulrich Leyendecker.

In der Endphase seines Lebens , in diesem Spaetsommer und schon von seiner schweren Krankheit

gezeichnet, kam Ulrich aus der Pfalz zu unserer Bleibe in Mittelitalien .

In der Endphase seines Leidens wollte er sich von uns und seinem geliebten Italien verabschieden.

Trotz Schwaeche blitzte sein unverwechselbarer Humor und seine scharfe Beobachtungsgabe, gemildert durch Guete,

immer wieder auf. Es

waren dichte Momente von Wahrheit.

Ulrich Leyendecker war fuer mich eine

grosse , leuchtende Ausnahmeerscheinung , ein zutiefst guter, ernsthafter Komponist , ein glaenzender Lehrer und

eben mein Freund.

( In 1998 dann konnte ich im Rahmen des Dubliner Festivals fuer Neue Musik Ulrichs KAMMERMUSIK fuer

Kammermusikensemble programmieren. – mit grossem Erfolg. )

In meiner irischen Sprache heisst es im Falle des Todes eines Freundes : ” Ni bheidh a leith’ead againn feasta

” : auf Deutsch etwa:

“Seinesgleichen werden wir nie, nie wieder erfahren “.



The Sligo Festival of Contemporary Music,

November 24-26, 2000

A preview of the Sligo Festival of Contemporary Music by Artistic Director and composer, Frank Corcoran.

Frank Corcoran

The race-memory is long. Hugh (‘The Great’) O’Neill may have brought back Tudor music to Dungannon. We didn’t hear it. Handel’s financial success in Fishamble Street made no impression on the peasant Mac and Ó Corcoráins of Sligo and Roscommon. Nor did child-prodigy John Field’s youthful concert in, was it 1793? Why should they?

Ireland’s political history never allowed for a development of art-music such as Esterhazy and Vienna witnessed in the eighteenth century – I am including Georgian Dublin here. Nor did nineteenth century Buttevant, Mallow, Kilkenny or Galway have a Meiningen-like orchestra to play the symphonies of an emerging native school of composers. Our music was monodic, a subtly varied store of dance-tunes and slow airs, some of which went back far into the mists of time. Yes, the race-memory is long. The instruments, aura, conventions, settings of continental music-life are, even today in my Ireland, not neutral. How could they be free of the whiff of a foreign, non-Gaelic ( – I am watching this mine-field of definitions… ) society? Art-music is different. It demands retention of structures of a sufficient complexity to carry our concentrated interest over large spans of time.

I was eleven. It was hard to retain these tunes of the Borrisokane Bagpipe Band; after the first eight bars I was lost.

I suppose it begins with God’s stutter, two blown tones on a swan-bone flute in the tenth century BC.
Catal Huyuk, that South Turkey hunters’ village (gazelle meat, it seems) the archeologists recently unearthed. Art-music (sorry!) has an uneasy place in the native Gaelic genetic memory. The upright piano is a symbol of the Big House. The string-quartet connotes: ‘I’m maybe in the wrong place here… We Irish are deeply uneasy when faced with retention of eight bars. Wrong, it’s a question of context. Every film or television score parades subcutaneous tonal sophistication.

We don’t notice it.

Yes, we are a post-colonial situation. No, we must not close our Celtic ears to upright or string-quartet.

My music matters.
It took me years to leap over my Tipperary shadow, to accept I have the power. Okay, my Ireland – de Valera’s – came late to art-music. One John Field doesnt make a summer of Irish composers. There is a problem. We lack experience. That’s all.
I had no composer giants on whose shoulders I dared stand.
But my music had to come out. I compare it to Irish painting, poetry, film. My new Irish works are new. Irish. Sligo is my mythic choice for the world premier of my Wind Quintet and for the Irish premiere of Cúig Amhráin de Chuid Ghabriel Rosenstock (we premiered them in Berlin over 20 years ago!), Buile Suibhne, Music for the Book Of Kells (Lake Michigan, exile’s eyrie, was how many times bigger than Lough Derg on ‘my’ Shannon?),
Trauerfelder (I wrote it for the fiftieth anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, but haven’t we got enough ‘Goirt a Bhróin’?). I twinned these with other Irish and European works.
Sligo was the centre of megalithic culture, of the Táin’s beginning. I see this Festival of Contemporary ( -too many syllables, Herr Mozart … )
Music as mating my musical thought with a tradition going back to that South Turkish gazelle-hunters’ village. Nua. Sean. Listen to the music those pierced swan-bone tones sang.

Bígí ag clos.

Tones matter. In Sligo.

( First published in JMI: The Journal of Music in Ireland, Vol. 1 No. 1 (Nov–Dec 2000), p15.
Published on 1 November 2000 )

Since 1983 Frank Corcoran has been Professor of Composition and Theory in the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Hamburg. His CDs include Mad Sweeney (BBM 1026) and Symphonies Nos. 2, 3, & 4 (Marco Polo 8.225107).Frank Corcoran is guest composer and artistic director at the Sligo Contemporary Music Festival, full details of which appear on the back cover of The JMI. Since 1983 Frank Corcoran has been professor of composition and theory in the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik und darstellende Kunst, Hamburg. His CDs include Mad Sweeney (BBM 1026) and Symphonies Nos. 2,3 & 4 (Marco Polo 8.225107)