Frank Corcoran

irish composer


I often reason it out thus: like music, I am a temporal creature , I see seventy years of my life as performances, – performance here being analogous to that of theatre, that of certain kinds of conceptual art .
My lived seventy years seem from another angle akin to films seen, my „ notes written on water „ , also to sand-art perhaps , a bit like the snow sculptures of the certain North Greenlanders ( – am I making this up? Certainly…. Why not ? ) My life as a
„sicut fumus „ kind-of-thing.
As many an other rural Irish child of the time I , too, must have been sensitive to the sounds of North Tipperary nature. ( I´ll
do the re-telling of mother´s 100 pigs and my 2. Symphony later. )
I certainly was blown away by Yeats´s „ For the wet winds are blowing / High up on Cloothnabare „ ; my child´s cochlea already knew this . ) . Our saw-mill whined danger, of course, and there was the rhythmic skurting of cows´ whitish milk into the scoured milk-bucket. My childhood was full of immense, loud goings on with sheep and cows and banbhs and sows in our farm-yards.
It is not my intention here to manufacture various Seamus Heaneyesqueries between my early composed music and our farm sound-scape .
Certainly there was that ; but there was more. eg. I sang in our little school , I clapped my hands, I slapped my body around, I produced tones on tin-whistle and box-accordeon. One private thing I was proud of: I surely did patent Corcoran´s Hands And Feet Children´s Composition Plan – I used my right or left fingers ( while pedalling down the country boreens ) to register just newly learned melody-tones; I had the principle three toes of my left or right foot for the few basic chords I learned ; so fingers melody, left or right foot harmony.
And every Tuesday was Fair day; on Borrisokane´s Main Street our country roarer, Paddy Reddan, ´d roar out his „come all yez „ ; mostly pentatonic.

Early enough I wanted to write songs, set poets, compose vocal music ( a Quintet for accordeon and strings of my sixties in Rome was a disaster – I couldn´t get the form of the three movements ; my experience of sound was pitiful , nor had I any knowledge of musical densities ) ; so quite simply, composing a text was a powerful help . ( To compose one minute of music is hard, but to compose five is much harder )
I loved solo and choral singing, the feel of my own breath
and the choir´s plastic lines and chords, dark, light, densities, slender or thickly matted , high dives and depths, dark/ bright colours , shapes.
DÁN AIMHIRGÍN ( 1971 ) ( – I must have been the first Irish composer ever to use this extraordinary Early Irish poem, a pantheistic God-litany; quite thrilling its climax ) calls for eight second altos improvising on the low C with the words „ Am „ „ gaoth „, „ gaoth i muir“, ( „ I am the wind on the sea“ , – Celtic God Aimhirgin´s self-definition in Iron Age Ireland ; His final „Am Brí Dána „ / „ I Am This Meaning“ analogous to the Genesis „ Eye Asher Eye „ ) , then another eight altos murmuring these magic syllables on the D, eight second sopranoes on the E and then the first sopranoes on F Sharp. A vibrating whole-tone chord. Then , as the high tenors enter on the G above these thirty two women´s voices with the „ Gaoth“ , my choral effect is magical .
A simple, fresh choral idea. But excellent.
Then the 1994 MEDIEVAL IRISH EPIGRAMMES which set short Japanese Haiku-like miniatures from our
Middle Ages , eg. Take : „All are keen to sleep with blond Aideen . All Aideen herself will own / Is that she will not sleep alone…. „ .
Thirty years later , other terse texts were to spark off the choral NINE WAYS OF LOOKING AT AN IRISH POEM BY GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK . Listen !
„ As tobar duaigh spéire / Líonann crainn / A ngoib“ . “From the ink-well of the sky / Trees fill / Their beaks. ”

And here I had a solo violin introduce , separate , commingle with my nine choruses.
Simple, but simple only after you´ve composed it. How then later would I set a for large polyphonic choir my 2012 EIGHT HAIKUS ( this time the Haikus were my own ) ?
How handle Framk Corcoran texts like :
„ Deep purple twilight / In the bay lie three islands / Asleep like children „ . ?

So vocal music you can hang on the peg of the text, of the words.
But what about instrumental music, then ?
My 1974 THREE PIECES FOR ORCHESTRA ( „Scenes from My Receding Past „ ) I had the chance to re-programme years later in an Dublin orchestral concert of 2000 with the SECOND SYMPHONY ; I was delighted – after over twenty five years, still fresh sounds, fresh acts of youthful courage in painting symphonic canvas. It´s stretch your colour imagination; let the expanding forms create, explode .
Of course musical ideas come from all over the place. The PIANO TRIO of 1977 was my break-through with my macro-counterpoint ; it too dares new colours , its not quite arch-form
singing and sputtering and blazing and searing and singeing whatever it was that I had wanted to singe . A short time later I got this macro-counterpoint , the wind polyphony which I wanted into the WIND QUINTET.
That´s it. ( About the four symphonies, I´ll writhe much later. )
became clear to me that music was a metaphor, of course, for transience –
so expression and self-expression, fine, but how do you get rid of the „ I „ in the sound – forgeing which you´re engaged at ?
The computer-painted works were different again . My 1980 BALTHAZAR´S DREAM ( – why didn´t I then call it „ BALTHAZAR´S SCREAM „ ? ) , generated by the terror of Borges´s minor masterpiece , „The Gospel According to St. Mark „ I spliced together at the Electronic Studios of
the West Berlin Technical University.
And that Guantanamo scream bursts out again twenty years later – in my digital TRADURRE TRADIRE
of 2002 for Deutschlandfunk. Its electronic predecessors, both WDR commissions, SWEENEY´S VISION in 1997 and QUASI UNA MISSA in 1999 went on to win , respectively, the Bourges Festival Premier Prix in 1999 and the Swedish E.M.S. Prize in 2002 . Was that important for this composer ? Of course !
Mol an óige. Encourage and praise good work . It was desperately needed in them for me bad nineties.
It is the isolation. It is courage. Put the head down, progress and shove. Slap it down. Write. ( Brahms to his only ever composition student: „ You must write, write, Every day! Don´t worry about its quality ; write it all down. But stop worrying about the weak stuff – the stove will look after that…. „
Create. Burst. – All words I´d use in struggling to write about my life-long working with sound. A sound man .
It took me thirty years to see that I´d often used as a ( unconscious, of course ) musical motive in many of my works the melodic motif C D and E ( or Doh / Re / Mi / ) . Why ? Because they are the initial „ Requiem“ tones
in the Gregorian Mass for the Dead.
Says it all, does it ? Music as metaphors , as distress and help signals, your call into the tomb. Music as the Orpheus myth. – All of this , of course, only after we´ve accepted music firstly as play, as tone- carpentry , as sounding architecture.
Lutoslawski died on Monday 7. February 1994 , just twenty years ago. What courage – what exemplary musical and human courage was there in his life as a composer . You´ve got to be tough nowadays .
Myriad temptations beckon; among the most vicious are: The Genetic Fallacy ( „ Her compositions derive from her life…. „ – though , mind you, they also do…. ) or „ A Musical Work´s Worth = Its Performance“ ( Thus eg. „ My music is good because it´s played well…. „, then with its charming corollary: „ My music´s played, therefore it´s good. „ . Well, is it good? Why? ).
With the recent Concerto for Violin and then the Concerto for Violoncello, maybe I´ve sneaked around the full circle ( -my cycle of fifths ? ) and the newer instrumental works want to sing even more.
I´d like to write a Clarinet Concerto, to have a shot at an Alto Rhapsody. I´d compose a Fourth String Quartet . If .
Music to ravish. The pure line AND the pure drop, the vertical AND horizontal, sounding densities PLUS then the reeling , sonorous line ( – which itself might be built out of various sub-lines ) .
It´s easier to talk than to compose . Getting harder to avoid self-quotation too .
What´s left to be original about ? Perhaps plenty. ( You won´t know till you do it. )
At the Zagreb Biennale 2013 they did my ancient PIANO TRIO, those young Zagreb Piano Trio lads, their immense paws, huge, warm sounds from all the three players. The original scaffolding of the Trio held firm, strong, because I´d built it well in 1977.
Scream and song. Surge or soar. How to get the ecstasy into the mix and wash, I continuously wonder ?
In order to make the structure secure, steady, ready .
Composing is better than decomposing, they say ; it seems to defie the second law of thermodynamics. No bad thing this .
The argument seems sound; I composed the new HOT DIALOGUES just now to fight ( for the moment ) death. To be
remembered for the musical conceits and cunning stunts.


Yes, climbing , descending, the singing human voice of the solo instrument, its joy
and radiance and despair and roughness and cantability as my
violin threads its line and lovely trellis-work up
from the open G string to the highest regions of the E string.

String joy. Great energy ! Great . Sing it ! In this opening movement
the short brass and wind chorales punctuate the violin´s Amhrán Mór, Great
Song. Always my opening melodic idea and a second little ” lusingando”
playfulness is the spiel . In the middle of this movement the
cadenza is ( – well, as it always is ) the soloist´s
show-off acrobatics, the violinist painting his canvas with his
sparkle of ideas, but they are all won from the opening tones ( as in
Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms… ) , all woven into the orchestral

The Second Movement is pure melody ( But can we in this c.
still compose a Lied ? Yes, we can ! ), lovely and ravishing .
Four times comes this Lied ( built again from my
building-blocks of that First Movement opening ) . In German ” Lied”
( “Song” ) is close to ” Leid” ( ” Suffering” ) . The central Cadenza
distills the
very essence of both. Then, just before the close, the violins have
the singing before the soloist´s final lovely pizz. and sigh.

The final Third Movement has a Mozartian
energy with its scurrying string semiquavers,
racing towards its end. ” In my end is my beginning” – it sums
up, it quotes the First and Second Mov.s before
pitting itself again against strong orchestral forces,
tiny David against his Goliathic orchestra, light and shadow and
gossamer explosions and clouds and heavenly regions, the whole thing . My
solo instrument has the last say, its last sigh cut off by low
celli and basses.



Rhapsodic Celli. The Music of Frank Corcoran.
Various Artists

Erschienen am 5. Juni 2017 bei RTÉ Lyric FM

Künstler: Martin Johnson

Genre: Klassik
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Album : 1 Disk – 14 Tracks Gesamte Laufzeit : 01:07:21

1 Cello Concerto: I. Introduzione, energico
00:09:14 N. einzeln verfügbar Abspielen
2 Cello Concerto: II. Canto, impennata
00:11:40 N. einzeln verfügbar Abspielen
3 Cello Concerto: III. Violenza selvaggia
00:06:17 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
4 Cello Concerto: IV. Conclusione
00:05:09 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
5 Rhapsodietta Joyceana
00:02:31 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
6 Rhapsodic Bowing for 8 Celli
00:08:42 N. einzeln verfügbar Abspielen
7 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: I. In Aonar Seal
00:02:47 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
8 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: II. Séan Ó Duibhir An Ghleanna
00:03:08 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
9 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: III. Príosún Cluain Meala
00:02:43 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
10 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: IV. Na Conneries
00:03:21 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
11 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: V. A Úna Bháin
00:01:56 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
12 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: VI. A Úna Bháin
00:02:31 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
13 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: VII. A Mháirin De Barra
00:02:49 In den Warenkorb Abspielen
14 Duetti Irlandesi for Cello and Piano: VIII. Mo Roísín Dubh
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1 Disk – 14 Tracks – Gesamte Laufzeit: 01:07:21

Künstler: Martin Johnson

Label: RTÉ Lyric FM

Genre: Klassik

© (C) 2017 RTÉ lyric fm

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Since July 13 the big silence , the password broken; hath an enemy
done this ?
Six mighty summer heat-waves have come and gone. I weathered. We
sweltered, were baked in Dostum’s desert tin cages. Cooler September,
one can begin thinking about thinking again – thinking about musical form and substance, the Tune The Ould Cow Died On, such thoughts before Venice and its sluicing, grinding gear-changes, the boat-bus
bumping or crashing.
I will write soon . About writing .


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.


Frank Corcoran awarded prestigious IFCM choral composition prize

Frank Corcoran

A choral piece by Irish composer Frank Corcoran has been selected out of 637 entries as the winner of the International Federation for Choral Music’s Second International Competition for Choral Composition.

Judged this year by an international board, the award is a prestigious one, with the winner being presented with both a monetary prize and a diploma from the International Federation for Choral Music.

The International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM) is the only not-for-profit global choral singing group in the world, and is dedicated to the promotion of choral singing as being open to all, and the availability of quality choral music to amateurs and professionals alike.

A Fulbright scholar and founding member of Aosdána, Frank Corcoran is well known internationally for his choral composition, and has won a number of awards, including last year’s Seán Ó Ríada Composition Competition at the Cork International Choral Competition with the piece Two Unholy Haikus. The winning work, Eight Haikus, will receive its world premiere by the esteemed choir The Phillipine Madrigal Singers later this year.


December 2. 2017 NDR – KULTUR

Frank Corcoran : a two – hour portrait of Elgar’s CELLO CONCERTO

plus; Frank Corcoran’s CELLO CONCERTO

( from the new RTE -LYRIC Frank Corcoran CD ” Rhapsodic Celli ” which includes this Concerto and

“Rhapsodic Celli ” for 8 Celli etc. etc. )