January 19. 2010. National Concert Hall. 13.00
“Horizons” Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra , Naomi O´Connell soprano, Conductor : Colman Pearce.
Featured composer : Frank Corcoran
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 )