Frank Corcoran

irish composer




I had been practising that for in or out ( – which ? ) of sixty odd years now. So I studied my profile, seeking to weed out even one weaky candidate in the list of morituri which my face was showing for all of those said and done and well-sung years. I hummed, then I hawed my Urmotiv, that 3-tone cell from which all of life´s lovely algorhythms trip so lightly : Doh, Re, Mi, from

the “Kyrie” of the Mass for the Dead. As I lay so blythely , controlling my breathing, but not yet my last, a pattern seemed to be emerging: shriving memory recalled flawed projects with me, a child in the forties. The anal stage, definitely my force to move the stars. Wiggle the left big toe; I´m still alive.Thanks, doctor, it can´t be too long now. And
you did promise you will say to dying me: ” Bye-bye now!” – Doc. ? You will ? ( And why does it matter so to us, doc., to us the dear departing, I wonder ? But it does…. )
Then I let my old thoughts loose to roam freely around the next storey of the memory-palace which, it seemed was now finishing with the life which I was terminally
considering…. e.g. my plans in them seventies, just before the diving-rudder was jammed forward into a ” down” angle and the Atlantic´s ocean-floor rose hard to greet us both. I dived. Now old wounds can tear the heart no more, apparently, in a cardiology that´s ” uneasy till it rest in Thee.”
( She peeked around the plastic curtain. ” Is your chamber-pot full yet …. ? ” )

Only rhythm remains in the end,the still firing neurons like to report.Take this left big toe, for example, and its world-formula: Let A be any one of your plans.Then let B minus A be the place you finish up in, eg. second place in the under fourteens´ 4-hand reel. That means C is your unknown quantity and it´s equal to B squared x A squared x O which is nought.

Quod erat moriendum. So which of my dying ” I” s was I currently fooling, eh ?

Begob, now just let the big toe dream its non-existent future after its imminent demise, a future world of toelessness, no less, but no longer my future world as seen from the couch I was sprawled on for the very last time. ( I really was, accept it on faith, really dying to die, but, I suppose, I just couldn´t. It does happen…. ) Suffer , ye multiple selves, all my past tenses. Blow, nurse´s bugle! Don´t forget to hoist this hero´s freshly-dead corpse up on its ( I had not prepaid; I forgot; it, too, can happen ! ) ) pyre. Mother had, father went. Meanwhile my toe was registering a great cold. Suppose mother had wanted me to be a Swiss Guard at the Vatican ? The toe, total cold now, had dozed off.
( So this´d be a further deformation of my phylogenetic derailment somewhere back along the furry-hairy parents´ line, is that it, toe ? )
Do it, dier! Like a wind-hoving skier. Now! So I smacked my hand-held piece of druids´holly that the Hospice For The Dying lady recommended for such vespers. Tap on the middle of the branch twice. Then knock once at the left side, druids ? But which banal deity might sidle in ? I did want to hear his god´s approach, her ghostly patter at my crackling fire. Into the intensive care ward padded, it burst Banagher, The Old Piper of Drooling Pentatonic, knobbly knees all blue under his lent kilt. He blew! ” Stop! Dying, I mean! Stop, this instant! Halt your processes! ” My staged thanatology was halted in its tracks; cold the toe, I saw that the fire barely flickered; my white hair stood on end . The hero´s pyre was consuming those ghostly faggots Mr. Yeats had wisely foresung. – Heavens ! Enough is enough! So it was then. So I snorted: ” Enough is enough! I hereby now appoint ME as Myne Lord Self, I designate myself Lord Smart! I am ,
therefore I am ! I will to will ! Remember her birthing , mother, pious he ! Herald, herald this thus! I am who am reclining here and I am about to reclaim my near-gangrenous toe !” In they trotted, mother´s small trooping gods and, of course, his goddesses. Goodly loud brayed the trumpeter, bold as brass , a Swiss Guard, as it happened. Then it happened. A gigantic weakness made my newly deified bladder burst. It put the pyre out.


It is time to dust down my choral score of ” MEDIEVAL IRISH EPIGRAMMES” which the RTE Singers under Hans Waldemar Rosen premiered in the then Dublin in 1975. ( It was played then at the 1978 International Composers´Rostrum in Paris 1978 )
These nine Haiku-like miniatures are a window on Iron Age Ireland of those first five centuries A.D.
Stirring singing.


To be honest, I see it differently.
I spent my 1993 Black Hole Year writing the ” Irische Mikrokosmoi” for solo piano. Fair enough. I had to focus the mind between insanity and , well, insanity. After all that which had run its unquiet course, I had only two hands – the right was inked; the left hand attempted to ape the bass-buttons ( – well, not exactly ) of the Borrisokane 1950- ies Céilí Band I aped.
I wanted to distill first twelve, then fifty Irish slow airs. Rape them.


2009 is a Joseph Haydn Anniversary Year so I have produced for North German Radio Hamburg my radiophonic analysis of Haydn´s panmotivic “Oxford Symphony” . All Haydn´s symphonic themes are related. All Haydn´s motifs I can derive from that odd, tonally unsteady first theme of his opening movement. Which is melodically ( = ” motivically ” ) derived from , as always, Haydn´s opening Slow Introduction. Am I serious ? Yes. The whole thing flows from those opening 5 tones ? Yes. That little motivic descent of the first violins at the very beginning of his symphonic energy , eh ? Yes.

For NDR I have done several radio-analytic / motivophonic programmes that X-rayed giants of my Tipperary musical past , eg. Mozart´s G Minor String Quintet, of course, then, his G Minor Symphony, Brahms´s last great Symphony Nr. 4. and several more. I juxtaposed textlessly smithereens and orchestral bits and symphonic joists and pillars and , well, chapters plus paragraphs.

QUASI UNA FUGA for 18 Strings ( 2007 )


Frank Corcoran

These last years I have composed several works for different instrumental combinations with titles such as ” Quasi Un Canto” for Orchestra, ” Quasi Un Concerto” for Chamber Ensemble, etc. The “Quasi” of the different titles refers to the fact that nowadays nobody is fully innocent anymore; this composer knows too much about the various musical traditions of our globe, of human history to be able to feign naivety.
“Quasi Una Fuga” is no neo-Baroque or neo-Bachian composition. ( – Stravinsky´s weakest works were those where he sinned in this respect . I must not repeat this mistake! ). It is my salute to all the thousand fugues I had as a young music-student to compose and it is at the same time my farewell to fugal writing and my bow to the phenomenon of counterpoint itself. It is not a fugue, yet it is unmistakably ” quasi” a fugal one-movement work for string-orchestra.
You clearly hear the subject with a limping accompaniment as it ascends into ethereal heights, its descent, its variants and side-shoots , how my “quasi” exposition develops and variates and becomes lush string-foliage . Everything grows so naturally from the opening ” soggetto” till, near the end , it morphs into the Early Celtic Chant , ” Ibunt Sancti”, which , tradition tells us, was the hymn St. Brendan and his twelve intrepid monks, Atlantic sailors surely extraordinary, sang as they prepared their supper on a broad-backed ( and, one must suppose, unbaptized ) Atlantic whale somewhere up near 6th. century Greenland.
My “Quasi Una Fuga” hymns, yes, total counterpoint, total motivic proliferation and total holistic growth. This is totally stringy music !


Nowadays I divide my time between Hamburg and Italy. That´s correct. In the main. However, one of the strangest electro-acoustic works I made ( – they´re all in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris ) was
that WDR commission, ” QUASI UNA MISSA” , of 1999. The radio´s small Cologne hotel was just across the square from the Cathedral , just behind the Rhine. I´d start the day´s intensive composing early; I mean early: they opened dark doors at six , I remember. Then I´d shuffle down to the still totally deserted banks of the mighty river Rhine. My composer´s day had begun.
The making of my second WDR commission, ” Sweeney´s Vision”, two years before that, was quite different. The light was different in Berlin. His bright Einstein river-bank where the Technical University´s Electronic Studio swives the water, was different. The very Spree was different. April, well, a very different month.
Different again was the hot 2008 London performance of my very ( – well NO! , not ” very!” ) early PIANO TRIO with Darragh Morgan and his great Trio this past July 1 . It was a kind of old London granary. The Warehouse. Wood , no water. My work has stood the tensile toughness of time. Thirty Frank Corcoran years. In London I was invited to remember every detail of having imagined that ( for the pianist´s bleeding fingers ) fiendish opening page for the piano solo where I smashed the tyranny of my bar-line, – but then I had to bring in the cello´s explosione tremolando and , after this furious dialogue got started, a high violin cantilena on a totally other plane, all three moving independently. Fiendish. Memory. My poiesis.
Most recent work for altered double-bass ( – all four strings up, yes, a fourth ) and piano, the 2008 ” Quasi Un Duo” hasn´t been heard in Germany or Ireland. Not yet; great USA ” Duo Moderno” of great Allan von Schenkel premiered it just before Christmas in Bucharest and snowed-in Cluj . Certainly. We will.


I was there. As it happened in Bergamo.
It was my 1994 ICE-ETCHINGS NR. 1 for, as it happened to happen, 9 wind-instruments. Later, I will release THAT letter which will tell all….

FOUR CONCERTINI OF ICE ( 1993 ) , being a predecessor , was subtly different. For the Düsseldorfer Sinfoniker, Cond. Mark-Andreas Schlingensiepen, I had to grapple,as it happened ( – it happened ! ) with the weighing-in of his following : Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Violin, Violoncello, Double-bass, Percussion. See ? ( – Whereas my newest, sweetest ” QUASI UNA SARABANDA” ( 2009 . 11´. ) for the Swiss Ensemble ” Antipodes” is, yes, a dream : Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon , String Quintet.

2009 will also see the birth of my new ” Quasi Un Preludio” for Solo Violin ; also, I announce it here, of my “Quasi Una Sarabanda” ( – see above ) , but , then, also of hotly baked VIOLIN CONCERTO Nr. 1. for Orchestra and Solo Violin.

HÖRPROBEN – neue CDs 3. 3. 2000 / Michael Trapp WDR 3

WDR 3 Hörproben 3.3.2000

Frank Corcoran´s Sinfonien Nr. 2,3 und 4. National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland / Colman Pearce
Marco Polo 8.225107 ( LC 9158 )

includes Frank Corcoran´s : ” Ich kam erst spät zur Kunstmusik. Die Klanglandschaft meiner Kindheit lebt weiter in mir…. ” Also: ” Der Komponist, geboren 1944 im County Tipperary, ist ein sehr gebildeter Mann… And, as they say, so on.

CORCORAN : Families of this name may, I dare say, be descended either from the ´O Corcráin sept whose homeland was around Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh, or the Mac Corcráin sept which belonged to Co. Offaly. I see also Corkerry, Corkery, ´O Corcra, Corcair, Composer etc.

Yep, it was Lothar Zagrosek who conducted the O.R.F.Symphony Orchestra ( Premiere : 10 November 1981 . Vienna ) in my Symphony Nr. 1 , ” SYMPHONIES OF SYMPHONIES OF WIND INSTRUMENTS”.

Hear, altogether other: NDR, WDR, HS, Radio Bremen, SFB, BR, ORF, RTE, BBC, CONCERTZENDER,
LYRIC FM, RTE, DLRBerlin, RAI TRE, RIAS, ORF, Croatian, National Public Radio USA, CDC, Spanish Radio, Belgian etc. etc.


February 9 2009 Czech Radio : Frank Corcoran ” Quasi Una Missa” ( WDR commission 1999 , it won
the Swedish EMS Prize 2004 ) and ” Sweeney´s Vision” ( WDR commission 1997,
it won the Bourges Festival premier prix 1999 ) .

February 22. NDR Choir and Ms. I. Psarewa : Frank Corcoran´s ” 9 Aspects Of An Irish Poem”
for Large Choir and Violin Solo .

Frank Corcoran was a member of the International Composers´ Jury Valentino Bucchi Prize, Rome, the Composition , Citta`di Trieste ( several times ) and also of the 2005 World Music Days / ISCM
hosted by CANTUS , Zagreb, Croatia.