Frank Corcoran

irish composer

Home » Archive by category "Humble Hamburg Musings" (Page 7)





Sunday December 1st 2013 at 12.00

Frank Corcoran

for 5 Percussion And Pianist

for 4 Percussion

with the Royal Irish Academy of Music Percussion Ensemble

Details attached.

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.



Age : 67 years . Ireland.

I participated in the big IMEB Competition in 1999.

My ” SWEENEY´S VISION ” ( it was a 1997 WDR Cologne Commission ) was awarded the Premier Prix.

The IMEB Competition was

EXCELLENTLY conceived and administered. Winning its PREMIER PRIX contributed GREATLY to my career as a composer !

It is a great shame for the French Ministry of Culture to withdraw vital support from IMEB and to force it to

close its doors this July 2011. A great shame.

IMEB was foremost in its field; a flag-ship for French musical culture and for

international electronic music in all its many facets.

A great shame for this great cultural nation. A great shame !


January 19. 2010. National Concert Hall. 13.00

“Horizons” Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra , Chloe Hinton, soprano, Conductor : Colman Pearce.

Featured composer : Frank Corcoran

12.30 SHARP ( ! ) The Composer Speaks

Frank Corcoran: FOUR PRAYERS for Mezzosoprano and Orchestra . ( World-premiere )

In these four orchestral lieder, the orchestra accompanies the singer; it “sets” and sings and carries and colours the texts and, yes, prays them. ( Music has from the beginning had its role in the Eleusinian mysteries and, much earlier, in Old Babylon and Egypt ) .
Lied One fuses John Scotus Eriugena´s staggering God – text, ” Deus est. Non est. Superest.” – ” God is. God is not. God is beyond ” IS” ” ) with the Irish saying, “Aithníonn súil liath saol liath” ( ” It is a grey eye which sees the world as grey”. ) . Strings and wood-winds sing with the soprano-line; percussion washes it.

Lied Two treats Henry Lyte´s traditional Victorian hymn, ” Abide with me “. ( It was this melody the band played over and over as the great ship “Titanic” sank to its icy Atlantic grave…. ) . What once might have been saccharine has become steel. Its intervals buckle and are chromatically crushed until, at the end, brake-drums and brass are also shrieking the singer´s “Abide!”

Lied Three sets an amazing, anonymous two-liner which I found over the Neo-Classical lintel of a Hamburg 18th. c. villa. I use the German : ” Wir bauen hier so feste / Und sind doch fremde Gäste! Und wo wir sollen ewig sein /
bauen wir so wenig ein!” – in my English it goes : ” We´re building here so free / Our jolly building-spree ! But where we should endure , there we´re so unsure!” with the Pauline: ” We´ve here no lasting city ! We build and build like mad – a pity ! ” which become a breathless, sardonic and bitter vocal Scherzo.

Lied Four composes Meister Eckhart´s ecstatic God – text . With its prelude , interludes and postlude of massed , muted brass it aims for the final rapt ” Ewig, ” ( “Eternal” ) with deep pulsing harp, celesta and crotales.

Frank Corcoran. QUASI UNA FUGA . World-premiere of this revised version ( 2009 ) for full orchestra .

This is in no way a neo-Baroque or neo-Bach one-movement work. It is and it is not a fugue for 56 strings. It is ” quasi” a fugue; the ascending “soggetto” is there, also its accompanying counter-subject . All is counterpoint ; everything is built out of the interval of the second . Fragments and smidiríní of the “theme” ( really a major-minor 12-tone scale, nothing more…. ) are heard in hundreds of bits and pieces until at the end it all morphs into the Early Celtic chant, ” Ibunt Sancti”. Was this the hymn which St. Brendan The Navigator and his twelve merry monks sang before having dinner on the broad back of an Atlantic whale somewhere up there near Greenland, around the year 550 or so …. ?

NOVELETTE for Full Orchestra . Witold Lutoslawski ( 1978 -79 )

Fifteen times the mighty opening chord yells, announcing the five short movements of this orchestral narrative. The Polish master calls them simply ” Announcement, First Event, Second Event, Third Event” and the accumulative ” Conclusion”. His orchestral palette is , as always full of the most beautiful and refined instrumental colours.

( Composer´s Notes )


Frank Corcoran’s hot, hot summer in Italy

will introduce two hot “IL CONCERTO DI DUBLINO ” concerts , one
in hot Orvieto in Umbria and the other in hot Bolsena by the lake.

Frank’s three friends from the N.S.O.I. , Martin Johnson , Cello, Adele Johnson, Viola and Fergal Caulfield, Piano, will present a Piano Trio programme – Frank’s tale of two cities – at the Teatro Mancinelli , Orvieto, on July 31 and a similar programme in Bolsena’s Piccolo Teatro Cavour on August 2.
It will consist of music by Schubert, Brahms ( – his mighty Piano Trio as climax ) , David Popper and new
work by Frank himself, from the 8 Irish Duets for Cello and Piano.
These little miniatures are based on Irish Slow Airs, eight of the greatest sean nos songs . As the composer insists, his melodic distillations are neither neo-romantic settings, nor neo- Bartok, nor neo-minimalist and yet neo-Corcoran.
Up till now they consist of : Sean O Duibhir An Ghleanna, A Mhairin De Barra, A Una Bhain 1. and 2., A Roisin Dubh, Na Conneries, Im Aonar Seal and Priosun Cluain Meala.
The first three will be premiered in Orvieto and Bolsena.

Frank Corcoran


Frank Corcoran

C D Mad Sweeney

Another opportunity to get to know one of the most distinctive voices in Irish contemporary music, Frank Corcoran

Michael Stewart

Corcoran Mad Sweeney CD

Mad Sweeney
Music for the Book of Kells
Wind Quintet
Sweeney’s Vision for tape

Buy from Amazon

Hard on the heels of Marco Polo’s issue of symphonies by Frank Corcoran – reviewed above – comes another disc of music by this fascinating composer. Corcoran, who was born in Tipperary in 1944, is a name in contemporary music who has eluded me until the appearance of the disc of the symphonies, and on the evidence of that disc I would certainly rank him as a major discovery of last year. He probably wouldn’t thank me for the comparison, but the best way to characterise his style might be to call him the Maxwell Davies of Ireland. I found the symphonies powerful, original and highly organic in structure. Black Box’s new disc offers us the chance to explore some of his music for smaller ensembles, as well as a remarkably atmospheric piece for tape.

Mad Sweeney for speaker and chamber orchestra is a setting of Seamus Heaney’s translation of an early Irish text about a 7th-century king from northern Ireland who went mad at the battle of Maigh Rath in AD 637, and who thereafter spent the rest of his life living wild as a fugitive and outcast.
The Sprechgesang-style speaking part is delivered here in fine dramatic fashion by Corcoran himself, and this is marvellously entwined within the complex musical argument provided by the chamber orchestra. I was continually drawn back to this piece and found much to discover on repeated hearings. Less gripping, I thought, was the percussion piece Music for the Book of Kells which Corcoran describes as ‘a terse musical discourse’ and as ‘not programmatic but rather an abstract structure in its own right’.

The Wind Quintet is in some ways a rather enigmatic, though nevertheless fascinating and thought-provoking piece that almost demands repeated hearings in order to penetrate its surface.
It uses a technique which Corcoran calls ‘macro-counterpoint’ and seems to have a fascination with the opening phrase from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring which is quoted early on and thereafter hinted at throughout.
Described by Corcoran as ‘a four-movement, late-20th-century electronic symphony’, Sweeney’s Vision is a subtle and highly effective tape piece, which I would say successfully encapsulates Corcoran’s ideas about ‘mythic sound’ and ‘Irish dream landscape’.
Superb performances and excellent recorded sound – Corcoran fans will not be



Joyce´s soul in purge,

We’d pray ” it ” might reach Heaven.

Now louts rule the roost.

Saint Jacopone

Chewed barbed wire, nettles for lunch,

The Papal jaw smashed.


Am 16.01.2014 um 15:08 schrieb Gabriel Rosenstock:

> Frank agus na Muca
> Gabriel Rosenstock
> Na muca a mhúin an ceol duit
> Nótaí ísle
> Nótaí arda
> Nótaí nach gcloiseann na muca féin
> Tá breis is 200 ainm ar Éirinn
> Inis na Muc ceann acu
> Is beannaithe í an dair
> Is beannaithe dá réir sin
> An mhuc a itheann toradh na darach
> An dearcán
> Tá tú 70
> Tá tú ag iompú i do dhearcán
> Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort
> Frank and the Pigs
> It was the pigs that taught you music
> Low notes
> High notes
> Notes that the pigs themselves don’t hear
> Ireland has more than 200 names
> One is Inis na Muc, Isle of Pigs
> The oak is sacred
> By osmosis so too
> The pig that eats the fruit of the oak
> The acorn
> You are 70
> You are turning into an acorn
> Seven blessings upon you


Midwinter Fest

On Sunday afternoon February 15, the North/South Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Max Lifchitz

will introduce New York audiences to five recent works by composers from Ireland and the US.

Sunday February 15, 2015 @ 3pm

Christ & St Stephen’s Church, 120 West 69th Street (between Broadway and Columbus)
New York


Admission is free – no tickets required


Frank Corcoran Quasi una storia (Nearly a Story) fo 13 Strings

Max Lifchitz Brightness Aloftfb


On December 15 in Canterbury Cathedral Christmas Concert

I had the supreme satisfaction of hearing my grandson, Antonin Corcoran, singing my IRISH CHRISTMAS CAROL

In the great Italian heat of this last 2018 summer in my two CONCERTO DI DUBLIN chamber concerts ( Orvieto and Bolsena ) we premiered my

“HOT DIALOGUES” for Viola and Piano.

This January 2018 saw also the premiere in Dublin ( Kaleidoscope ) of the PICCOLO QUARTETTO FILARMONICO with Malachy Robinson’s original quartet.

In 2019 I will be seventy five Will we be planning something musical, compositional, perhaps?


Frank Corcoran’s QUASI UN BASSO for Solo Bass

is performed on May 17 2006 in Magyar Radio/Radio Bartók’s Bela

Bartók Centenary Concert in Budapest)

Is cumadóir ceoil mé. I am an Irish composer. The pre-industrial, rural
Ireland of my childhood in the fifties was, in a way, not unlike the small,
agricultural Hungary of Bartók’s
youth and maturity. Dublin and Budapest were, for all their artistic
short-comings, vitally important cultural metropoles. (- For Hungarian and Irish
music-lovers they still are.) Small nations both, their surrounding
neighbours often seemed culturally omnivorous, omnipotent posing a real threat
that the identity and self-respect of both little emerging States would be
gobbled up by an all greedy neighbour.
Bartók ploughed the lonely furrow. Bartók said “NO!” to cultural
tyranny. Bartók took his stance.
Moral. Artistic. Not that he wanted to marry
folk- and art-music; you can’t.
But as a folk-collector and as a 20th c.
composer, forging and finding his individual composer’s voice, he refused to
let lazy indifference stifle musical diversity or musical courage. Courage –
that’s it. He discovered the unknown, hidden jewels of folk-art. He
composed his own mighty musical structures. Behind both of these, yes, heroic
stances was Bartók’s refusal to give in.
My own little Ireland in my 20th c. has gone an in many ways similar path.
With very mixed results.
My Irish language dies daily a thousand deaths.
Ireland, too, had a Renaissance, an explosion of Irish traditional music which
however by its very over-kill and over-exposure in the media is endangered.

As a composer in Ireland, an Irish composer, I had to plough my lonely
furrow. In my native Tipperary I had to overcome a still mightily hostile
indifference to the oldest layers of Irish singing and instrumental art. In my
youthful struggle to construct tonal structures at once private
and public, the enemy number one was Dublin’s very clearly post-colonial
dependence on a second-rate, hand-me-down, London-based music-pedagogy.
bits of Bartók were misused in our musical curricula, his work contextlessly, lovelessly paraded without any real understanding of where Bartók was
coming from,
but shamelessly paraded as ‘‘our’’ apologia for contemporary music, as ‘‘our’’ bulwark against, say, the horrors of the Second Viennese School.
And my little Ireland , politically a ‘‘free ’’Republic, had in its early days of liberation psychologically and politically not succeeded in providing a climate of musical understanding and the respect for musical creativity
necessary to have, in its critical years, an Irish Bartók, Bartók na h –
My ‘‘Quasi Un Basso’’ for solo bass is my diptych for, as Bartók uses it, a mighty orchestra in a solo instrument.
(I am thinking of those – now sadly ubiquitous but then so fresh, so shocking Bartók pizz.s from his basses in
the orchestral works like his ‘‘Divertimento’’ for String Orchestra, the
extraordinary long legato lines near the end of his ‘‘Music For String Orchestra, Percussion and Celesta’’, the daring and brilliance of his orchestral imagination.) Mine are two fragmented pictures from my vanished Ireland.
Art-music today faces the most viciously anti-art global market known to
man. We have no place where wares are bartered. But YOU CANNOT BARTER BARTÓK!

– Nor indeed any music of lasting value. It is questionable whether the
folk-musics of either Hungary or Ireland will survive the market’s kiss of
It is doubly questionable whether Hungarian and Irish composers will
survive our global village which today is swollen with the greatest ocean of
sonic rubbish known to man. Have we composers a place to be heard?
Where’s the silence? From which music is born and heard?