Frank Corcoran

irish composer


QUASI UN PRELUDIO for Solo Violin Frank Corcoran

I seem to divide my time nowdays between Hamburg , Dublin an Italy. I am in love with Viterbo of the Popes in Northern Lazio.
In the great heat of my sun-dappled garden last year I finished” 4 Orchestral Songs” ( Premiere N.S.O. Dublin 2010 ) , ” 9 Pratoleva Pearls ” for Solo Piano and “Quasi Un Preludio” fo Solo Piano. A good harvest.
The “Quasi” of the title positions this little miniature solo among my earlie “Quasi” series of the late nineties ( after I´d finished the ” Mad Sweeney” series ) , eg. “Quasi Un Canto” for Large Orchestra”, ” Quasi Un Pizzicato” for Wireworks Ensemble, Hamburg , the electro-acoustic “Quasi Una Missa” for West German Radio ( it won the Swedish EMS Prize in 2002 ) , “Quasi Un Concerto” for the Cantus Ensemble Zagreb, “Quasi Una Fuga” ( commissoned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra who premiered it in Limerick Cathedral as part of the 2007 Shannon Festival ) etc. , culminating in the recent Octet, “Quasi Una Sarabanda” for the Swiss Ensemle, “Antipodes” , premiered in Berne, Basel and Zürich in June 2009.
– So is this ” Quasi Un Preludio” for violin solo a prelude or a pearl from Pratoleva ? – less a Webernian miniature, more a compressed argument for the total stringiness of the soaring violin solo .
A chromatic argument , yes. Very world- and very Irish music, as this hardly two minutes of musical argument mutates into that
passionate Connamara sean-nós caoine of the Irish Famine , ” Sail ´Og Rua”.

FRANK CORCORAN : born 1944 in Tipperary, Ireland. Studied ancient languages, philosophy, theology , music in Dublin, Rome and Berlin ( composition with Boris Blacher ) .
1980 Composer Fellowship with the Berlin Artists´Programme. Since 1983 Professor in Hamburg. Many distinctions and commissions. 1989 – 90 Fulbright Professor in the U.S.A. and Guest Professor at Princeton, Harvard, Indiana, New York, CalArts, etc.
Works performed and broadcast in Europe, the Americas, Australia and Asia. Member of Aosdana, the Irish Academy of the Arts.
Recent works include: Clarinet Concerto ( commission 2009 ) Violin Concerto ( 2010 ), 4 Orchestral Lieder ( National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland 2010 ) , Quasi Una Sarabanda ( Berne 2008 ), Quasi Una Fuga for String Orchestra ( 2007 ), Quasi Un Concerto ( Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra 2005 ) , Quasi Un Caoine ( N.S.O.2005 ), ” Mad Sweeney ” for Large Ensemble and Speaker ( Boston Musica Viva 2005 ) , electro-acoustic ” Tradurre – Tradire ” ( Deutschland Radio Berlin 2004 ) “Sweeney´s Vision” ( commissioned by W.D.R. 1997; Bourges Festival 1999 Premier Prix ) etc.


In the mid-nineties I wrote “Mad Sweeney” for Speaker and Chamber Orchestra ( to a text by the Irish Nobel Prize-winner for Literature, Seamus Heaney ) .
This sparked off the series of ” Mad Sweeney” works , including the electronic ” Sweeney´s Vision” ( a W.D.R. commission which won the 1999 Bourges Festival Premier Prix ) , came my “Quasi” works for various forces, including “Quasi Un Canto” ( Zagreb Philharmonic 2005 ), “Quasi Un Caoine ( N.S.O. 2005 ) , “Quasi Una Fuga” for 18 Strings ( Irish Chamber Orchestra 2007 ) , the electro-acoustic “Quasi Una Missa” ( W.D.R. commission; it won the 2002 Swedish E.M.S. Prize ) , ” Quasi Un Concerto” ( Cantus Ensemble 2006 ) etc.
Last year I composed “Quasi Una Sarabanda” for the Swiss Ensemble “Antipodes”. It is the most recent of my “Quasi” works. It is a sarabande, well,quasi a sarabande . I , as an Irish and ” world – composer” , am no innocent . I know too much of what art-music has been composed, at least in our European history.
Mine is a one-movement argument for ( the classical ) octet. It is a hommage to that great and sad dance – form since ( at least ) the sixteenth c. when melancoly Spanish King
Phillip shut himself up in his depressive Escorial Palace. How much great art-music ( and Irish classical Slow Airs of the ” sean nós” tradition … ) used the rhythmic scaffolding of this halting, stumbling slow three-in-the-bar ? Horn, bassoon and clarinet stumble and sway and sing and scream with the five strings.
Does my stark argument lead inexorably to the viola and violin keening in the final moments of my eleven magical minutes ? Premiere with the Octet of the “Antipodes” Ensemble this June 19 – 21 in Berne, Geneva and Basle. First recording by Radio DRS in Berne.


I saw her cold eyes
I heard great goose-wings beating
Her ugly, webbed feet

Crow is scratching snow
Beak and claw and craw, black, white
Bird-eye murderous

New Year´s Day glitters
Its firt daw-glint is calving
A hoe in the cold shed

The centre, drowned,
Cannot hold, the wild geese know,
Their swirring wings know


6.June 2009.

Frank Corcoran radioanalyses : Haydn’s “Oxford” Symphony. For North German Radio. It will broadcast his 2. Symphony . 20.00 . Then 22.00. Or thereabouts, radiophonically.


Yes, I did enjoy greatly writing those five little texts for RTÉ´s “The Quiet Corner” plus
– trí Gaeilge- a mini-portrait of Corcoran´s Saint Patrick for Lá Le Pá¡draig 2009, all broadcast in this week of March 16 -10.
Why? Because the pen compels the typist to shape and schnitt and cut and form and weigh her words . To compose. See? I don’t have to be synaesthetic, merely symmetrical or anti- or sympathetic to this idea. Words instead of tones. Gentle wordiness in place of tonality.


My “9 Aspects Of An Irish Poem” for Large Choir and Solo Violin went splendidly. See:

Die Welt Online of 24. 02.09 : ” Hamburgische Tongemälde von meisterlicher Hand” ( Lutz Lesle ) . Also NDR Online “das neue werk” and “NDR Chor / Phillip Ahmann , Chefdirigent.”


From the ink-well of the sky trees enjoy now and again a pint in interdendric peace.They slurp, imbibe, quaff that blue-stuff . Great blossomers fill their gobs with heavenly dark juices which angels ( with nothing better to do ) have been quietly brewing for some time now. Trees sate their selves. They grow heavy with clotted goblets . A pint of sky´s your only man, oaks, winking at each other over beaded brims of ink-wells. Californian grand boles let down that liquid, a litre of sky-ooze. Your European dendron´s not far behind as the elms fill parched, treey orifices with watery white-blue on certain days we´ve all had, as a contrast to chlorofilled greens and their woody atmosphere, forests smelling of harmless mushrooms or harmless animals´ spoor in their gloaming.
Out of heavenly vessels that once were on village-children´s pre-Famine desk-tops trees do drink. A lot. Their boles and blossom and fancy foot-work need the dancer´s drought, its satiation. Enough is not enough of the high atmospheric. They enjoy oral and labial quenching, sloughing and guzzling down Heaven’s ink-wells´liquid. Yup !
Trees´beaks love. Trees are deep-down more skim-milk blue than greenish sap. From tap-room to toe-lips rhey crave and slaver. Tiny trees ape their giants´ bibulosity, From high pots trees accept injected true-blue. I thirst.
An elder was heard; a high birch inclined in order to dabble in the real ould mountainy sky-dew. An enormous sky-watcher, perhaps a dinosaur-tree,would go insane for even the lighter stuff, easier to pour, mixed in with skim-milk . Injest, trees. Digest these oaks´ beastings. Make pleasurable drink-smacking up there near your heavenly buckets of this potage. Sip please! No gulping, we´re trees, all arboreality , sylvan or heavy drinkers. Hear the ground-swelling of this oceanic swilling. Look skywards, trees anonymous. From these troughs and those stratospheric wells of ink a mantle of blue for their botanic brewery. Trees tongue their ink as a swaddling child its clouds´ooze. Out of this rarified high air the foggy dew is trees´due. Trees do, yes. Wooden beaks pleasured. Unsawn branches soar towards the bursting amniotic. They empty ink-wells , their very inner veins now very fullish with pan-treey superfluity, almost sick with this heavenly milk. Noble trees, a grá for blob and droplet, the blue dropped note.


I composed them . Yes:

“Quasi Una Missa” ( 1999 W.D.R. Commission. electro-acoustic . 2002 Swedish EMS Prize )

“Quasi Un Pizzicato” ( Wireworks Ensemble commission 2004. Soprano , Speaker and Ensemble)

“Quasi Un Basso ” ( 2005 . Solo Bass. Allan von Shenkel . Also featured in Hungarian Radio Bartók´s
2006 Bartok Celebrations, Budapest )

” Quasi Variations on A MHAIRIN DE BARRA ” ( Irish Radio commission 2005. Constantin Zanidache,
Solo Viola, recorded it for CD “Composers´Art Label ” LC 00581 )

“Quasi Un Canto” for Large Orchestra ( 2005 World Music Days, Zagreb Philharmonic )

“Quasi Un Lamento” for Chamber Orchestra and accordeon ( N.S.O.I. Dublin 2005 )

“Quasi Una Visione ” for Ensemble Modern ( RTÉ´s “Living Music Festival” , Dublin, 2005 )

“Quasi Un Concerto ” for “CANTUS” Ensemble Zagreb ( Commissioned 2003 from Irish Arts Council . Island of Vis and Zagreb . )

“Quasi Una Fuga” for 18 Strings ( commissioned by Irish Chamber Orchestra, 2007 MBNA Festival )

” Quasi Un Preludio” for Solo Violin ( 2008 )

” Quasi Un Duo ” for Piano and Double-bass ( Duo Moderno 2008 premiere in Bucharest )



Well, are there some amongst us who cannot now draw these e-threads together into a Benozzo Gozzoli golden cloth – of – email ?
Yes, we had male parthenogenesis ( rare enough, it must be admitted in Queen´s County ) ; then we stitched in father´s father´s similar auto-erotic achievements. Go easy on the next cloth-of-gold stitch. ( The Great Scream, my unworthy and washed two typing fingers feel it here, is being propelled not down but up the chimney-vortex. Keep it clean, young filigrain stitchers; watch and wash your tongues, no patchwork, please. Enter composed film-music by The Young Chief Cassidy ( – I said keep it clean, will you ! ) Himself.
No, Benozzo Gozzoli´s cloth-of-gold will not of itself remake Sainted Ben´s painted gold archbishop´s mistake in a matter of humble causality, – eg. who caused the screamer´s scream ? Who did, as a matter of proven fact, eat my Great Aunt Bridget´s roasted pony ? Had it been roasted for her only ? Golden error happens.
Weave into our golden passacaglia eleven tones: Hypothumotic stitchers, prove it; prove we are all ready. Finis; even great stitching dies. Ladies, come, all, to the potty ! Then, I remember it very well, we stitched in nothing. God is no thing. Capitals is better. Squirt the left tit again!
No. Our little embroidery job isnt´t quite finished. Weave in the one big auntie, a damned good concertina-player; – actually, her will has had it, she was unravelled smartly, unfairly ( she claimed she was very weak ) , out of the Big Design. Last story: ( the good old first person singularis, jugularis ) we´ll stitch in my golden cousin, cloth-of-gold . Stitch in the ” nea” between her microtonal accordeon tones . Stitch in her “HOW NOW! ? !” womb-cancer, as you´re at it.

Short is our needle, our tea-break, your e-painting patience, Bennie Gozzoli. . Certainly, I googled you – it was for my dead, concertina-playing cousin – we will carry in couchant our Painter Benozzo Gozzoli´s Last Will And Testament ( ” O filii et filiae ; now the cancer raceth up my Renaissance painterly-stiff shoulder ” ) .
” I , Benozzo Gozzoli, courted painter of, chiefly, angels´wings, all sizes and specifications are to get an Umbran welcome, I do bequeath to this, still my (?) world all my coloured swirls, my slashes and oil wisps and half-finished Monte Falco angelic wings and rainbows and ye´ll have great fun with. Try to cap that. ”

O filii. Now they race through his now forever stiff painter´s shoulder: yes, he had painted that golden archbishop and my killing, cancerous cousin´s concertina with the three final chords which finished off weak composer, Strauss, Richard, and his Four Last Songs. Listen: it´s C Minor, B Flat, E Flat. There now. Easy now . Lay down dat brush.

QUASI UN LAMENTO ( for my N.S.O.I Concert in Dublin, March 8, 2005 )

If Orpheus had had three saxophones to hand, he also would have availed of their power to mourn. Or an accordeon. Still, it´s important to get rid of the bleating, the whine the old cow died on. Music can lament alright, but it has to get rid of the merely private. While it also affirms, it is bewailing not so much any particular “Dies Irae” as the very passing of the very time of which music is made. Even without the double reeds or any particular register the composer´s plangency begins its unsettling work. In Vasari´s Corridor in the Uffizzi is a fine Roman copy of the Greek original ” Marsyas Being Flayed Alive”. Apollo, a string-player, takes his awful revenge on the poor wind-player. My one-movement work, ” Quasi Un Lamento”, my sound-sculpture, screams , moans; the seven wind-instruments easily overpower anything the four strings can sob; my piano and percussion add a third element of violence. The accordeon at the close can whimper its Requiem “Kyrie”, five tones, Doh-Re-Mi-Fa-Mi, a fundamental archetype of Western music.

And QUASI UN CANTO for Full Orchestra, then. “I don´t like music but I love to sing!” was Leonard Bernstein´s self-protecting spakes on and off television. In “Quasi Un Canto” a prelude ( it doubles at the end as a postlude also ) frames the orchestral song as it unfolds its 5 tones, A,B,C sharp, C,D and E flat in instrumental groups of three ( three trumpets, three flutes, etc. ) and later in groups of four ( celli divisi, etc. )
Hear my song, sardonic, splintered, quasi unisono then. This branches outlegato or blocked or bursting its way through musical space. Harp, piano and a panoply of percussion ( including bodhrá¡n and clashed cymbals to be lowered in a bath-tub of water ) mediate between the ideas which are really one idea. Vertical is horizontal is oblique. This is song, the full throat.