Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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Yes, I was highminded.

I was expecing high ethical standards , poor fool, as I slithered up from Stuttgart

to that infamous , unhealthy Milchstrasse Bus-stop !

Yes, my step teetered over the threshold into that Budge Palais.

No welcome! Nobody to shake the hand and mutter “Willkommen !” No one.

Too soon I saw how several colleagues died their too-early cancer-death – and too soon after being pensioned.

( Was it those asbestos blackboards ? Was it their colleagues’ HATE ?

Was it the Hamburg Gestapo Gauleiter who had tortured just there where I had to take my modest lunch in

thebuilding’s bemused bowels ? )

Elsewhere I have written about Werner Kruetzi’s Minor Nobel Prize , Just Missed, for his famous

” The- Distance-From-My-Luebeck-Mistress’s Bed -To -My-Hochschule-Lectures ” Algorhythm.

“THEORY” was largely a bad joke

– Palestrina ( ? ) counterpoint and Bach ( ? ) Chorales and , well, WHAT ?

Not good.

But ” COMPOSITION ” was an even bigger joke.Yes, Werner helped to poach from the (vanishing ) post- Ligeti

pool of students.

And all this from colleagues who had never, never composed a single five thirteenths bar – or its sequences.

Was this good ? For our students ? Intelligent ? Weep, weep.


This year you are focusing on Irish composer Frank Corcoran with a concert of some of his electro-acoustic works.

What was your motivation behind selecting these works?

We are presenting three of Frank Corcoran’s electro-acoustic works (Quasi una Missa – 1999, Tradurre Tradire – 2004, and Sweeney’s Vision – 1997) in the opening festival concert on Wednesday, 10 April at 7pm.

Dating from 1997–2004, these are amongst the oldest works we have ever presented. This slightly contradicts what I said about ‘current’ music, but I think Frank’s music has an earthy timeless quality. His music doesn’t concern itself with fashions or trends, and these three electro-acoustic works aren’t overly involved with displays of electronic technique that might make the work sound or feel dated.
In fact, they still sound very fresh and direct.

The Light Gleams: a portrait of Frank Corcoran

Historically, these are some of the most significant electronic works by any Irish composer, although they may not now be so well known to Dublin audiences.
So it is important to recognise their significance. These works were originally written for radio, and by their nature are already relatively accessible – in fact they are decidedly ‘radiophonic’, and very effective in this context.

Sometimes ‘tape’ music concerts can be seen as being rather stuffy and academic, and music programmers may be a

little frightened to engage with the form. This is something I wanted to challenge directly.

But above all, I greatly admire the determined Irish-centred character of Frank’s work and his willingness to engage head-on with themes of myth and language.
This subject matter may be somewhat unfashionable, but it is this disregard for trends that allow the works to maintain their freshness and directness of appeal.
When they are heard together in a seamless concert presentation, these works take on a very forceful coherence and logic.

They unfold in a slow deep rhythm, which makes a compelling concert experience outside the normal flow of time.


Sweeney’s Vision is another take on the little king. It was composed with the
help of computers at the Electronic Studios at the Technical University in
Berlin. It is ‘my’ soundscape vision of Sweeney. It explores the elemental
forces of sea and spume, sky and wind around Skellig Rock and elsewhere. It is
a four-movement, late 20th-century, electronic symphony. Whales are waves in
this piece. There are whines and whinnies, storms and roars, smeared chorales
and dirges. Less early Irish psychiatry – more acoustic alchemy.

(Frank Corcoran)

Amongst modern composers Corcoran is a latter-day Mad Sweeney –

part hermit,
part priest, part prophet, and part sinner – roaming and settling the lonely
and forgotten parts of a mythical soundscape; reaching across the pagan and
Christian eras.
Corcoran’s interest in the Mad Sweeney epic, its Early Medieval
Irish setting at the boundary between pagan and Christian eras, reveals itself
repeatedly across many of his works: Music from the Book of Kells (1990), Mad
Sweeney (1996), Sweeney’s Farewell (1998), Sweeney’s Smithereens (2000). But the
three ‘tape’ works presented here most neatly express Corcoran’s all-embracing
vision of a distant, multi-layered past, rendered deftly here in late 20th
century technology.

These works are presented here for the first time in surround sound and as a
‘body of work’ in a single concert. Composed in the years spanning the peak of
Corcoran’s creative output in electronic ‘tape’ music, these pieces are written
in a consciously radiophonic style. When heard together in a seamless concert
performance, they accumulate a coherence and forcefulness of argument which
brings to life a mythological landscape, littered with visual metaphors, in a
true ‘cinema for the ear’.

Quasi Una Missa and Tradurre-Tradire both interrogate the limits of language and
text. Yet the objective is not to impart literal meaning, but to weave a
musical sensibility from the broken threads of speech. If, as Corcoran asserts,
Joyce and Beckett are Ireland’s greatest composers, then these works must
assure Corcoran himself of a place in the Pantheon of Irish poets.
But more than language, it is a layered mythological history which guides
Corcoran’s ear and lends him his ‘unshakable faith in myth’s abiding
significance’1. For Corcoran, the past is not some remote, distant vanishing
point; it is not fixed or settled. History and myth surround us, like language,
like landscape, waiting to be read and re-read, made and remade. It is where we
live, where Sweeney lives.

(Fergal Dowling)

Frank Corcoran was born in Tipperary 1944 and studied in Dublin, Maynooth, and
Rome, and with Boris Blacher in Berlin. 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

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); First Prize
International Forum for Choral Music for “Eight Haikus” (2013); Sean O Riada
Prize, Cork International Choral Festival for “Two Unholy Haikus” (2013); and
2002 Swedish EMS Prize for ‘Quasi Una Missa’ (1999).
CDs of his music have been
released on the Black Box, Marco Polo, Col-Legno, Wergo, 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.
Recent works include: Eight Haikus for SSAATTBB Choir (2013 Manila University
Choir), Violin Concerto (2012, NSO, Alan Smale, Christopher Warren-Green), Songs
Of Terror And Love (2011 North South Consonance, Max Lifchitz NYC), Four
Orchestral Prayers (NSO, Chloe Hinton, Colman Pearce), Quasi Una Sarabande
(2009, Antipodes Ensemble), Quasi Una Fuga (2007, Irish Chamber Orchestra,
Anthony Marwood), Quasi Un Canto (2006 Zagreb Philharmonic), Cello Concerto
(2015, NSO, Dublin), Clarinet Concerto (2019, New York, North South/ Max
Lifchitz), and Quasi Un Lamento (2005, NSO, David Brophy).

1 Dwyer, Benjamin (2014) Joycean aesthetics, ethnic memory and mythopoetic
imagination in the music of Frank Corcoran

IN 1978 I wrote this to the “Irish Times ” – WHY ?

Frank Corcoran ,

IRISH COMPOSER TRUST 1978 Monkstown 1978

To the IRISH TIMES . 1.5.1978.


I didn’t sleep a wink last night after reading that Charles Acton , your revered music-critic, found his copy of my LP ” COLLECTION ONE ” was ” so badly warped that the start

of each side is hard to judge … ” ….

Meanwhile I have done it.

My new LP ” COLLECTION ONE ” is the first ever launching of his own work in this form by an Irish composer.

It is a milestone in Irish music.

I believe passionately in the record’s label, ” Self Help” .

The music of Irish composers must be played, replayed, discussed and judged….

Yes, it is sad that some umbrella organisation has not taken on re-distribution.

But in the meantime I will go it alone. …

Frank Corcoran


Geboren: 1. Mai 1944

Herkunftsland: Irland (Republik)


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Komponist : Corcoran, Frank

Textdichter : Corcoran, Frank
Besetzung : gemischter Chor (SSAATTBB) a cappella
Ausgabe : Chorpartitur
Sprache : englisch
Bestell-Nr. : C 57103 Q40422
7,99 € *

Riverrun: Voicings / Soundscapes

Riverrun: Voicings / Soundscapes

Von der menschlichen Stimme, dem Universum der Klänge und Geräusche inmitten der Stille. Klangreise in das Studio Akustische Kunst des WDR von Klaus Schöning

Komponist : Cage, John, Fontana, Bill, Kagel, Mauricio, Otte, Hans, Pannke, Peter, Henry, Pierre, Riessler, Michael, Rühm, Gerhard, Sani, Nicola, Schafer, R. Murray, Humpert, Hans Ulrich, Corner, Philip, Knowles, Alison, Brecht, George, Jovanovic, Arsenije, Amirkhanian, Charles, Bandt, Ros, Barlow, Klarenz, Bermange, Barry, Body, Jack, Carter, Paul, Cee, Werner, Chopin, Henry, Claus, Carlfriedrich, Corcoran, Frank, Curran, Alvin, Fleiter, Raimund, Franke, Marielouise, Goldstein, Malcolm, Hays, Sorrel, Helms, Hans G., Hopkins, Sarah, Huene, Stephan von, Jandl, Ernst, Kostelanetz, Richard, Kriwet, Ferdinand, Kröpfl, Francisco, La Barbara, Joan, Loubet, Emmanuelle, MacLow, Jackson, Mayröcker, Friederike, Mon, Franz, Morrow, Charles, Mussman, Linda, Oliveros, Pauline, Ortmann, Richard, Steckel, Ronald, Rothenberg, Jerome, Schulz, Thomas, Quartucci, Carlo, Truman, Josephine, Tardos, Anne, Wassermann, Ralf R., Quin, Douglas, Stone, Susan, Thom, Randy
Ausgabe : 2 CDs, 80-page booklet
Bestell-Nr. : WER 63072
24,50 € *
Eight Haikus
Eight Haikus
Komponist : Corcoran, Frank
Textdichter : Corcoran, Frank
Besetzung : gemischter Chor (SSAATTBB) a cappella
Ausgabe : Chorpartitur
Sprache : englisch
Bestell-Nr. : C 57103
10,50 € *




4th JUNE 2017 at 12:00

The music of Frank Corcoran

with the Pratoleva Trio
Fergal Caulfield: pianoforte
Adèle Johnson: viola
Martin Johnson: violoncello

“Duetti Irlandesi” for violoncello & pianoforte (Irish Premiere)
“Variazioni semplici” for Solo Viola
“Rhapsodietta Joyceana” for Solo Cello
“Trio” for viola, violoncello and pianoforte (Irish Premiere)


For further information contact
Gavin O’Sullivan
ph: +353-87-2456971

The Sundays @ Noon Concert Series is funded by Dublin City Council
and grant aided by The Arts Council/ An Chomhairle Ealaíon.


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.

March 17 2019 New York

North/south Consonance, Inc



To commission Professor Frank Corcoran, eminent Irish composer, to write a new work for a clarinet and string

ensemble to be premiered in 2019 by the North/South Chamber Orchestra as part of its 39th consecutive season of free-

admission concerts in New York City

Betreff: wdr radiokunst

/ karl-sczukow preis / studio akustische kunst von WDR –

Klaus Schoening

2.14 –Thomas Schulz Lingua X Tichon Oder Die Bedeutung Des Weges 2:50 2.15 –Peter Pannke Alles Ein Atmendes Buch 2:38 2.16 –Douglas Quin Forests/Wälder 1:57 2.17 –Ronald Steckel Schweigende Landschaft 1:55 2.18 –Charles Morrow* Arctic – Kristallklar 2:08 2.19 –Susan Stone Virigina Reel 2:03 2.20 –Randy Thom Ear Circus No. 1 3:19 2.21 –Nicola Sani Materia Sassi 2:40 2.22 –Arsenije Jovanovi? Metropolis Arles 3:22 2.23 –Sarah Hopkins From Our Dreams And Visions 2:05 2.24 –Ros Bandt Mungo 2:00 2.25 –Sorrel Hays Sound Shadows 2:04 2.26 –Frank Corcoran Sweeny’s Vision 2:30 2.27 –Malcolm Goldstein Topography Of A Sound Mind 3:55


Frank CORCORAN (b. 1944) NEW RTE CD

Rhapsodic Celli

Cello Concerto [32:31]

Rhapsodietta Joyceana [3:31]

Rhapsodic Bowing for 8 Celli [8:42]

Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano [23:43]

Martin Johnson (cello)
Fergal Caulfield (piano)
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra Cello Octet
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Gavin Maloney

rec. 2016, National Concert Hall, Dublin (concerto), RTÉ Studio 1, Dublin (others)

RTÉ LYRIC FM CD154 [68:17]

This is a valuable addition to RTÉ’s series of recordings of the Irish tradition in classical music, a series which gives the opportunity to hear music from a nation often overlooked by listeners.

It needs to be said at once that the music of Frank Corcoran is rarely easy, or, in the colloquial sense, particularly rhapsodic.
He does have a distinctive voice and, in some ways places himself in the Irish tradition, especially, on this release, in Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano.
A valuable feature of the CD is the cross-section of his music provided, from solo works up to the full orchestra of the concerto. The linking feature is the cello, but otherwise, the pieces are dissimilar.
The sound world put me in mind of Elliott Carter, though the voice is not identical, and distinctly Corcoran’s own.

As a composer, Corcoran has worked in various media, including electric-acoustic, but many of his works refer to Irish literature and traditions.
Despite this, his teaching has been international, notably in the USA (including Harvard, Princeton and Boston) and Germany.
In the 1980s he was professor of composition in Hamburg, and his first symphony (Symphonies of Symphonies of Wind Instruments) was premiered by Lothar Zagrosek in Vienna in 1981.

The Cello Concerto is perhaps the most substantial work here, and it is a considerable piece. The opening movement acts as a gritty introduction to the remainder—it has a stern, rather agonised character. The cantabilissimo slow movement is characterful, with an element of slow song made up of scraps of melodic material. It has an instant attractiveness.
The scherzo is described by the composer as “easily the most violent music I have ever written”. Orchestral strings are silent: the propulsion—it drives hard, very hard—comes from massed percussion and howling brass.

The final movement recalls the first, reconciling, or not quite, fragments of the others, and recalling the opening of the whole concerto.

James Joyce, of course, also used this circularity in Finnegan’s Wake (as would Flann O’Brien in The Third Policeman), so it is perhaps apposite that the next work on the CD is Rhapsodietta Joyceana.
The composer describes Joyce as “the greatest Irish composer”, noting the effects of reading Joyce aloud. The piece is not large but it works as a tribute to the spirit of Joyce.

Rhapsodic Bowing for 8 Celli written specifically for the cellos of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra is an interesting piece which requires virtuosity.
As Corcoran says: “There is … not only rhapsodic bowing but also rhapsodic plonking and plinking, pizzicati and (col legno) striking”, but matters are resolved into a strong and ultimately tender ending bases on Bach’s C Major Suite for Cello.

The composer claims descent from Floirint Ó Corcorain, a master harpist of the 15th Century.
Corcoran has long been fascinated by the traditional pieces. Yet he describes himself as appalled by settings of traditional melodies by composers such as Beethoven, Haydn, Britten and Harty, and attempts, in the rethinking here, to recapture the original spirit of eight traditional melodies. Many are associated with Corcoran’s home county of Tipperary.
The pieces are melodic, touchingly beautiful, and suited to the melancholic tones of the cello. The original airs are treated with affection and respect for their character. There is an absence of aggressive modernism, but real affection.
These eight pieces deserve frequent performance. Most familiar to many will be the final tune, ” Róisín Dubh “.
It was so significant in Seán Ó Riada’s score for the film MISE EIRE , and has much political resonance.

Playing by Martin Johnson and his partners is excellent, notes (by the composer) are informative. This is a worthwhile and fascinating addition to the RTÉ series.

Michael Wilkinson