Frank Corcoran

irish composer

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21. May ( 04 Bealtaine ) . Lyric Fm Radio at 19.00 – 20.00

A rogha ceoil le Frank Corcoran . It includes ” QUASI UNA MISSA”, ” SWEENEY´S VISION” and VARIATIONS ON ” A MHÁIRÍN DE BARRA”.


These are among my bigger canvases for varying sizes of orchestra. They straddle more than thirty years of inner struggle with this composer´s ear and ounds .

The THREE ORCHESTRAL PIECES are for middle-size orchestra ( I do insist on the sub-title: ” Pictures From MY Exhibition” ) . They are my three expanding time-pictures, ca. 2 minutes, 4 minutes and 6 minutes. I was thirty years old . This work won the 1975 Dublin Symphony Orchestra Composer´s Competition.

Five years later I had left Dublin for Berlin . SYMPHONIES OF SYMPHONIES OF WIND was premiered by the O.R.F.Symphony Orchestra in Vienna 1981. Of course it is “about” more than Stravinsky´s masterpiece for 23 wind-instruments ( – at its premiere in 1918 his grave caoine on the death of Debussy was a flop with the audience , a salutary reminder to still young me as I went about stealing his ” Russian Chord” ) ; my symphony is very much “about” great masses of air , sounding wind, time shaped slowly into an enfolding 24 minutes of musical argument.

What separates QUASI UN LAMENTO , then, from the SYMPHONIES ? Well, twenty five years of a lived life, three other symphonies, many sound-sculptures, instrumental and electro-acoustic. I´d written the MAD SWEENEY series ( – better: collection of works triggered off by my 1996 setting of Seamus Heaney´s English version of ” Buile Suibhne / Mad Sweeney” . By 2005 I was coming to the end of my ” Quasi ” series , pieces of many different sizes and shapes, all of them mindful of towering musical works composed in at least these last 200 years . This ten-minutes essay for a small orchestra including three saxophones and accordeon is as much
my protest as my lament.

At around the same time I composed QUASI UN CANTO for the Zagreb Philharmonic . Here the orchestral forces are vast. My short Prelude, central Argomento and short Postludio present a big picture.


It was an intolerably humid summer-night at Lake Michigan , 1990 in Milwaukee. My drained year as a Fulbright Guest-Professor in the U.S.A. was ending ; two shadows lay over the family, my wife´s insanity and the violent death of my oldest son, Rory, shortly before. The University of Wisconsin Library purchased a facsimile edition of the Book of Kells in Lucerne. It commissioned me to compose a work for this event. My soul´s flood-gates opened then. This one-movement canvas for a vast array of percussion and , at the end,
Irish pianist ( – I was he- ) paints my Early Medieval Ireland, that strange interfacing of Celtic monastic Christianity and pagan tribal forces, war , peace, prayer, cattle-stealers and saints and druids and kings…. Quiet opening bells and gongs give way to deep drums, later timpani and brake-drums, an great ocean of sound-associations .


All that we saw was his shadow under his shield

5 perc pf MS13′
Commissioned by Book of Kells Committee
of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.
Premiere: 27 May 1990. University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.
New Music Ensemble, Frank Corcoran (pf), conductor Pavel Burda.
Mad Sweeney. Percussion Modern, Frank Corcoran(pf), conductor Dieter Cichewiecz.

Black Box 1999. BBM1026

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