Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Live Reviews: Corcoran, Ligeti, Leyendecker, and Hamel

Corcoran, Ligeti, Leyendecker, and Hamel –Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin, 14 October 2001

The ‘Sundays at noon’ concert series at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art provide a rare and very welcome opportunity to hear contemporary…

Corcoran, Ligeti, Leyendecker, and Hamel – Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, Dublin, 14 October 2001
The ‘Sundays at noon’ concert series at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art provide a rare and very welcome opportunity tohear contemporary classical music. A good sized audience took advantage of the free entry to hear a programme of ‘six threads’ woventogether by Frank Corcoran on October 14th.The concert featured works by Corcoran, Ligeti, Leyendecker, and Hamel, the connecting link being that of the Staatliche Hochschule f
r Musik und darstellende Kunst, Hamberg, where Corcoran has been professor of composition and theory since 1983. The event was a presentation by the Goethe Institut, in co-operation with the Association of Irish Composers.

Music for the Book Of Kells
is a 1990 composition by Frank Corcoran. This performance by the

Percussion Ensemble was its Dublin Premiere. The work is inspired by a notion of seventh-century Ireland as combining the heroic age of Celtic warriors with the rise of great Christian scholarship. The piece is surprisingly visual and it is entirely appropriate for composer to describe it as a ‘sound landscape’. The striking of bells evokes the round tower, the ominous rumble of the drums, the march of armies. Overall the feel of this work was dark and sinister with moments of real power.The third concert piece was

Hebräische Balladen

by Ulrich Leyendecker (1993), a Professor in Hamberg alongside Frank Corcoran. Perhaps it was my lack of German, but this work was a distinctly less engaging part of the concert. Leyendecker’s piece is for soprano and piano, and while the technical ability of Rachel Talbot andDavid Adams was flawless in coping with its complex rhythmic and melodic changes, it may have also suffered from the acoustics at the Hugh Lane which seem to distort sound to the detriment of the lower tones.

Frank Corcoran’s second contribution to the concert was a Dublin premiere of his
Third Wind Quintet
Sweeney’s Wind-Cries
played by the Daedalus Wind Quintet. The story of the semi-mad seventh centuryking, transformed into a bird, condemned to flying about Ireland with unrecognised meaning to his apparently nonsensical twitterings has long been an interesting image for Irish artists and Sweeney has featured surprisingly often in literature, theatre and music.

reflects its subject matter by being a dualistic piece, hovering between recognisable form and inchoateness. It is ‘one long argument’ as the composer put it in his pre-concert talk, between discipline and freedom, between a tiny figure appearing in the opening arpeggios and a swirling world of suffering about them. Sometimes on first being exposed to a complex piece of music you half catch the feel of it – enough to want to hear it again and absorb it. So it was with this work, not as immediately engaging as, say,
Music for the Book of Kells
, but if you had a version on
you would want to play it repeatedly until you had grasped the argument.

The concert concluded with Frank Corcoran’s
Trauerfelder-Goirt An Bhróin
(1995) with
RIAM Percussion Ensemble.
This piece arose from commission by the Ministry of Culture to mark the 50th year of the Jewish community’s liberation from Auschwitz. Now in my experience, over 90 per cent of cultural references to the Holocaust come to grief. It is often an image used to evoke horror, without any depth to the actuality of the horror and as such over the years has become debased. The difficulty of this composition is that not only is the composer not Jewish, nor German, but he was asked to ‘celebrate’ the liberation. Wisely Corcoran refrained from obliging with a happy ending. The music is funereal, sombre and at the same time it does not shirk from its subject matter. Very visual images are created by the useof chains, whistles and tam-tams.

Posted under: Humble Hamburg Musings

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