Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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3. Dezember
Nachtrag zu Woche 48

Prisma Musik

Thema: Kleine Schule des musikalischen Hörens: Frank Corcoran hört das Streichquintett C-Dur von Franz Schubert
Das Werk gehört zu seinen letzten und gilt Kennern als Gipfel dessen, was in dieser Kunst überhaupt möglich ist. Generationen haben sich den Kopf darüber zerbrochen, wie Schubert zum Beispiel die magische Stimmung des Adagio-Satzes erzeugt hat.

Der irische Komponist Frank Corcoran versucht in der Kleinen Schule des musikalischen Hörens den Geheimnissen dieser Musik auf die Spur zu kommen, die einem unbegreiflichen Schaffensrausch auf dem Kranken- und schließlich Sterbebett entsprang.

Danach Frank Corcorans 4. Sinfonie aus dem Jahre 1996 ( National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Cond, Colman Pearce )


Yes, art can be defined.

– but watch the context, the cultural and historical period. Art or arts ? Which art ?

See also Horace, the Roman poet. See also craft ( as in 19th. c. ” Arts and crafts” ) . etc. Clear the decks.

Or are we attempting a definition in this 21 st. c. ?

Where we do the defining is also important.

eg. Take Ireland and, say, the contemporary art of composed music.
Why do I insist that in Ireland still today there is hardly a concept, a definition, the possibility of defining composed musical works – composed by Irish composers – as art, indeed as Irish art, an art on a level with eg. Irish poetry, film, painting etc.

What are the causes of this blindness, this prejudice, this exclusion of this definition ?
Are they dogmatic ?
Is it lazy thinking?
Could it be lack of experiencing New Irish Music, is that it ?
Mull this over.
There have in the past been many definitions of art, of musical composition. It´s also worth reflecting a moment on some of the things we still today may define composing as:
it is sicut fumus, like smoke, ethereal. It is a temporal art, indeed THE time-art par excellence. Time-bending, stretching, sculpting, stitching, overlapping, deluding, defying, conquering. ( See Rosenstock´s ” Buailim bob ar bhás! ” )

Composing is hope, utopian, mythic, fighting the good fight. If “cinis aequat omnia”, still a Frank Corcoran

composition will yell and shout and erect its own resistance to Montague´s ” Sea of history / Upon which we all turn / Turn and thrash / And disappear… ”

Music keens, protests, praises a fightin´ transcendence which potentially lives beyond the grave.

Certainly, music can be defined. Art can be defined. Irish contemporary music fights for its place in defining

Ireland, Irish art, Irish artists.



I felt the enormous strain on the earth’s skin
Tighter and tighter the taut vulcano’s drum…
I knew the mountain’s surface was getting thin.
When would its explosion begin to whimper, to sing ?

How long before the magma, the whole shebang
Might collapse as then, in terrible years of yore ?
From across the bay I’d also feel the whang
And wham and slam and shout and awful roar…

No, mankind can not take very much real.
Imagination falters before these Gates of Hell
But pressure mounts; our instruments are working well.

How facile our words ; our film unwinds, each reel
Shows blue-white fire, caverns , the molten smell,
Last cries of burning pain, our rush pell-mell.


Dear IRISH PAGES, Hamburg …. enclosed please fin SIX HAIKUS . Sincerely, Frank Corcoran

SIX HAIKUS 1. Five dogs – or seven –
Snarl in the cold morning air:
Barking: ” Kill the Spring!”

2. First light; wintry hope. 3. Who goes there? Summer!
Frozen iron, hoe and spade. My pen scrawls on white paper.
Another day dawns. Soft horns! Clarinets.

4. Bits of sticky sleep 5. Suppose God is light?
My eye tries to see itself A mountain´s shadow purple?
Evening birds chitter “Ciúnas, a h-anaim!”

6. Sunset, ” tramonto”,
Tiptoes through this, our window.
Well, is this then death?

FRANK CORCORAN : Irish composer, living in Hamburg and Italy. Member of Aosdana. Studied in Dublin,
Maynooth, Berlin, Rome. 1980 – 1981 Berlin Ártists Fellowship. 1989 – 90 Fulbright Professor in the U.S.A. .
Many composer-prizes, distinctions and commissions, including 2012 Cork International Choral Festival Seán ´O Riada Prize . Works performed and broadcast in Europe, N. American, Australia. See also for discography and work-list. Among newest works : 2013 CELLO CONCERTO. 2012 VIOLIN CONCERTO ( NSO / Alan Smale/ Christopher Warren-Green ). EIGHT HAIKUS ( National Chamber Choir / Paul Hillier ) . 2011 SONGS OF TERROR AND LOVE ( New York ), 2010 9 ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM ( North German Radio Choir ), 2009 QUASI UNA FUGA ( Irish Chamber Orchestra ), 2008 QUASI UN CANTO ( Zagreb Philharmonic ) . etc. etc.


Frank Corcoran

ist seit 1983 Gründungsmitglied der irischen Künstlerkademie Aosdána und wurde vielfach für sein Werk

ausgezeichnet. Corcoran lebt in Deutschland und Italien. Musikschaffen. Corcorans kompositorisches Schaffen umfasst

vier Sinfonien, Kammermusik, Vokalmusik und Tonbandstücke. In den späten 1970er-Jahren entwickelte er mit …


It’s a long way to Tipperary ” goes the old song. And it is a long way from Tipperary in southern Ireland where I was born to still West Berlin where 1980 – 1981 I spent a year as an invited guest of the Berliner Kuenstlerprogramm.
I had had my First Symphony premiered in Vienna in 1980, a work for wind alone. No strings. No percussion. I began my Second Symphony for Large Orchestra.What was the motor-idea for this large work ; music doesn’t exist for me without form. As a young composer I wanted to shape and control my vast colour forces . I had the idea of two contrasting movements , the first ( “Soli” )
concentrating on the individual solo lines of , eg. the trombones, the gongs and deep percussion of the opening, the solo double basses and celli and higher strings.
My music not synchronized metrically – as a contrast to the second movement , ” Tutti ” , which would use the same material but barred as ” normal”, synchronized music. So two twin movements ; the first a vast movement of smeared chorales and instrumental masses, but with no clearly heard lines and the second then as more “normal” as the lines scurry and hurry towards their end. The opening of this first movement of my Second Symphony does in fact achieve a hieratic ” chaos versus order ” quality, a shifting carpet of kinetic art . : Mahler famously said that a symphony must become itself a different world from our everyday world. Here you hear my created world of 1981 in West Berlin.
( Could I re-create this work like that today ? No ! )

MUSIC 1. Frank Corcoran 2. Symphony. Mov. 1. All. ( RTESO Dublin . Conductor: Colman Pearce . Marco Polo 8.225107 )


1983 I moved to Hamburg to teach composition at the Musikhochschule there . ( Can you in fact teach musical composition ? No ! )
Twelve years later the city-state of Hamburg was celebrating 50th. years since the Liberation of Auschwitz. But how do you ” celebrate” such horror ? The party-less Minister of Culture , the literary expert Christine Weiss, asked me to compose something to commemorate
the suffering of its Jewish citizens. I protested : ” No ! I am neither German nor Jewish but Irish !” Still I persisted…. )
I decided to use an orchestra of only percussion instruments. How can a snare-drum paint the barracks awakening ? Can we at all,
after the Shoah, compose music ? How can eg. points of triangle suggest points of human suffering ? And so on.
My TRAUERFELDER, in my native Irish language GOIRT AN BHROIN , in English FIELDS OF SORROW has five chapters of human suffering from the Book of Pain.
In the first of my five, short TRAUERFELDER bells and vibraphone hammer out the hard vision of hardship; timpani ushe in the unspeakable.

MUSIC 2. Frank Corcoran. TRAUERFELDER Mov. 1. ca. 2.50′. CD Composers Art Label FRANK CORCORAN
( ISRC DE – L29 – 04 – 01430 )

Four years after the percussion piece TRAUERFELDER and still in Hamburg I wrote with the giant computers of West German Radio’s
Electronic Studios a large piece using my Irish Tipperary childhood memories and my love of mythic Early Ireland .
I composed. I painted my canvas , my QUASI UNA MISSA , which won the 2002 Swedish E.M.S. prize for electronic music. ( I had never wanted to
distinguish my work with symphonic or chamber or vocal and choral forces as in any deep way different from my computer work. Computer music , if it is not technological fetish , is, or has to be music…. )

QUASI UNA MISSA is my celebration of over 2000 years of God-statements on my island of Ireland, its religiosity and its drive towards the mystical.



Born 1944 in Borrisokane, Tipperary, near the mighty Shannon river. Studied philosophy, music, ancient languages, theology, in Maynooth, Rome and Dublin and compositio in Berlin ( Boris Blacher ) . Has written orchestral, choral, chamber and computer music .1980 – 81 Berliner Künstlerprogramm. Professor at Hamburg 1983 – 2008 . 1989 – 90 Fulbright Professor in the U.S.A. Guest lecturer at Harvard, Princeton, Indiana, NYU, CalArts, etc. Member of the Irish Academy of the Arts Aosdana since 1982. His works have been recorded and broadcast in Europe, U.S.A., Canada, Australia, etc. First Symphony premiered in Vienna1981.
Represented several times at the International Composers´Rostrum. For his seventieth birthday 2014 CMC Film:
” The Light Gleams ” .

Many commissions and distinctions. Awards include : First Varming Prize for Irish Composers 1974, Dublin Symphony Orchestra Prize 1975, Studio Akustische Kunst 1995 ( JOYCEPEAK MUSIK ), Bourges Festival Premier Prix 1999 ( SWEENEY´S VISION ) , Swedish E.M.S. Prize 2002 ( QUASI UNA MISSA ) , International Foundation for Choral Music 2013 First Prize ( EIGHT HAIKUS ) , Cork International Choral Festival 2012 ( TWO UNHOLY HAIKUS ) etc.

New works include : CELLO CONCERTO ( N.S.O. Dublin 2015 ) , ALL MY ALTO RHAPSODIES ( Italy 2014 ) QUASI UNA STORIA for String Orchestra ( New York 2015 ), VIOLIN CONCERTO ( Irish Radio / N.S.O. 2012 ) CLARINET QUINTET ( RTE commission 2011 ) , NINE ASPECTS OF AN IRISH POEM for Choir and Solo Violin ( NDR 2010 ) , FOUR ORCHESTRAL PRAYERS ( N.S.O. 2010 ) , MAD SWEENEY ( Boston Musica Viva 2006 ) etc.

For discography etc. see





3. Dezember
Nachtrag zu Woche 48

Prisma Musik

Thema: Kleine Schule des musikalischen Hörens: Frank Corcoran hört das Streichquintett C-Dur von Franz Schubert
Das Werk gehört zu seinen letzten und gilt Kennern als Gipfel dessen, was in dieser Kunst überhaupt möglich ist. Generationen haben sich den Kopf darüber zerbrochen, wie Schubert zum Beispiel die magische Stimmung des Adagio-Satzes erzeugt hat.

Der irische Komponist Frank Corcoran versucht in der Kleinen Schule des musikalischen Hörens den Geheimnissen

dieser Musik auf die Spur zu kommen, die einem unbegreiflichen Schaffensrausch auf dem Kranken- und schließlich

Sterbebett entsprang.

Danach Frank Corcorans 4. Sinfonie aus dem Jahre 1996

( National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Cond, Colman Pearce )


Born in Tipperary in 1944, Frank Corcoran studied at Dublin, Maynooth, Rome and Berlin. He was a music inspector for the Irish government Department of Education from 1971 to 1979, after which he took up a composer fellowship at the Berlin Künstlerprogramm. In the 1980s, he taught in Berlin, Stuttgart and Hamburg, where he was professor of composition and theory in the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst. He was a visiting professor and Fulbright scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the U.S. in 1989-1990, and was a guest lecturer at CalArts, Harvard University, Princeton University, Boston College, New York University and Indiana University.

His output includes chamber, symphonic, choral and electro-acoustic music, through which he explores particularly Irish issues like language and history. He has worked with text by the poet Seamus Heaney, in the chamber piece Mad Sweeney, 1996, and by the Irish-language writer Gabriel Rosenstock. 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.

Recent commissions include:

Variations On Myself for Chamber Orchestra, New York 2013

Trio for Guitar, Viola and Flute, Cardiff 2013

Quasi Un Gran Duo for Harp and Cello, Dublin 2013

Piano Trio, Zagreb Biennale 2013

Violin Concerto, RTÉ NSO/Alan Smale/Christopher Warren-Jones 2012

Clarinet Quintet, RTE 2009

4 Orchestral Prayers for Mezzosoprano and Orchestra, N.S.O 2010

Quasi una Sarabanda, Swiss Ensemble “Antipodes” 2009

9 Pratoleva Pearls, Andreas Skouras 2009

Quasi Una Fuga for String Orchestra, Shannon Festival Limerick 2007

RTÉ commission 2005 Quasi Una Visione for Orchestra, Ensemble Modern premiered at the Living Music Festival, Dublin

Quasi un Lamento for Chamber Orchestra, RTÉ NSO Horizons Concert 2005

Quasi Un Pizzicato for Large Ensemble, Wireworks Ensemble Hamburg 2004

Quasi Un Canto for Large Orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic at the 2005 World Music Days, Zagreb

Piano Trio, Bolsena 2017, Pratoleva Trio

Hot Dialogues for Piano and Viola, Orvieto 2018, Pratoleva Duo

String Quartet, Dublin Festival of New Music 2019, RTE Con Tempo Quartet

Clarinet Concerto, New York 2019, North South Chamber Orchestra, cond. Max Lifchitz, soloist Sammy Lesnick.

His Joycepeak Music won the StudioAkustischeKunst Prize, Cologne Radio, in 1995. In 1999, his piece Sweeney’s Vision won first prize at the Bourges International Electro-acoustic Music Competition and his Quasi Una Missa won the 2002 EMS Prize, Stockholm. Seán Ó Riada Composer Prize, Cork International Choral Festival, 2012. His EIGHT HAIKUS for Large Choir won First Prize Outright in the 2013 International Foundation for Choral Music.He is the first Irish composer to have his symphony premiered in Vienna. (Frank Corcoran´s Symphonies of Symphonies of Wind was premiered by the O.R.F. Symphony Orchestra / Lothar Zagrosek there in 1981) . He is a founding member of Aosdána. He lives in Hamburg.

For further information visit:

Mad Sweeney (Black Box Bbm 1026) including “Mad Sweeney” for Speaker and Ensemble, NDR recording: das neue Werk Ensemble: Frank Corcoran: speaker; Dieter Cichewiecz, conductor)
Music for the Book of Kells (percussion modern, Frank Corcoran: piano; Dieter Cichewiecz: conductor)
Wind Quintet No. 2 (Stuttgarter Wind Quintet)
Sweeney’s Vision (electro-acoustic, WDR commission)
Strings Astray (Black Box Bbm 1013. Irish Chamber Orchestra, Cond. Fionnuala Hunt, including Frank Corcoran: IRISH MIKROKOSMOI- “Scenes From My Receding Past”)
Frank Corcoran : Symphonies 2,3 and 4. ( Marco Polo 8.225107. National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Conductor Colman Pearce)
Frank Corcoran Sweeney’s Vision ( Wer 6307.2 “Riverrun” )
Frank Corcoran Sweeney’s Vision ( BOURGES 1999. Imeb-Bourges 13 )
Frank Corcoran Trauerfelder – Goirt an Bhróin ( ” Neues aus der Milchstrasse”- Peer Verlag Hamburg).
Col Legno CD Mad Sweeney´s Shadow 2003.
Quasi Una Missa, Piano Trio, Balthazar´S Dream, Rosenstocklieder, 3. Wind-Quintet, Sweeney´s Farewell
2005 Swedish CD CAP 22057 Mad Sweeney
2005 Cantus CD 020 Quasi Un Concertino
2005 Composers´Art Label CD Sweeney’s Smithereens including Sweeney’s Smithereens, 5 Trauerfelder, Tradurre/Tradire, Concerto For String-Orchestra, 5 Songs Without Words
2006 Composers’ Art Label CD Quasi Una Music, including Quasi Una Visione for Orchestra, 9 Aspects of an Irish Poem for Choir and Solo Violin, Ice-Etchings for Solo Cello, Quasi Un Pizzicato for Ensemble, Sprecher and Soprano, Quasi Variations On ‘A Mháirín De Bharra” for Solo Viola, Quasi Un Concerto for Chamber Orchestra.

Back to current members
Registrar of Aosdána
The Arts Council,
70 Merrion Square,
Dublin 2


Composers whose music is part of NORTH/SOUTH CONSONANCE

events during the 2018–19 season include:

Jorge Antunes
Peter Aviss
Hayg Boyadjian
Hector Campos-Parsi
Teresa Carreño
Frank Corcoran

Ruth Crawford Seeger
Allan Crossman
Manuel Enriquez
Federico Ermirio
Igor Escudero
David Froom