Frank Corcoran

irish composer

2005 N.S.O. PREMIERE OF “QUASI UN LAMENTO” for Chamber Orchestra


( for the N.S.O.I Premiere of this new work on March 8. 2005 )

If Orpheus had had three saxophones to hand, he, too, would have availed of their power- to mourn. Or an accordeon.

Still, it’s important to get rid of bleating, the whine the old cow died on.

Music can lament ( -though it should get rid of the merely private, merely biographical ) ;
it can bewail not so much any “Dies Irae” as the very passing of that time which our temporal art is made of.

Even without double reeds in a particular register, the composer’s plangency begins its unsettling task.

eg. In Vasari’s Corridor of the Florentine Uffizi is a fine Roman copy of the original Greek sculpture, “Marsyas Being Flayed Alive “; the string-player, God Apollo,takes his slow, awful revenge on Marsyas, an innocent oboist. Marsyas’s massive, bound torso is bursting with pain.

My short one-movement work,my musical sculpture, screams and moans. Its seven winds easily overpower anything the string-quartet may whimper or moan.
Percussion and piano add yet a third layer of violence. The accordeon at the close then whimpers its rising ” KYRIE ” from theGregorian Requiem Mass, its only five notes ( Doh, Re, Mi, Fa, Mi ) , the most fundamental of all the archetypes of Western music.


What will the last note of the high solo violin be ?

F Sharp !

Why ? – Because it’s also the first; also because I feel that 6-note descent of ” my” scale of F sharp, E flat, D, C sharp, A flat and G. ( Other tones also will
pull – eg. A ; and the G, F sharp ,- and then from my Frank Corcoran’s Scale Inverted, we have the extra tonal artillery of G, F sharp, C sharp, C, B natural, A flat and F ).
– All pulling towards G – or to its , well not dominant but contra-pole, C sharp.

Trying now to finishing the second movement ” Allegro ” after the first Slow Movement. It appears now as a slowing down from its
initial fast chord repetitions, fierce energy. It deccelerates to sweet collapse, to the lyrically rhetorical solo violin. Repeated chords ( 6- or 5-tone collections ) are both directed AND subtly re-coloured; yes, the full eleven strings – TERRIFIC. Reduce them to bare bones , to their own decay. Yet,

the final solo violin is also a tribute to the ” beauty ” of the cadencing – somehow ! – with that leader’s appoggiatura G onto that

deepest register fifth of A flat and E flat; then that rising sixth A – F sharp, hopeful ? Is this a historical relic ? A tiny chance ?

So semiotics on eleven strings ? ( My slow opening movement had to aim at economy, polyvalency, every sigh and interval and dotted rhythm and crossing lines and Wacky Walz idea and composed funeral-march, slowly hesitating last thoughts on lower strings … magnificent.


MUSIC FOR THE BOOK OF KELLS for 5 Percussion And Irish Pianist :

My Fulbright year in the U.S.A. had been long and wonderful.In summer 1990 then the University of Wisconsin Library commissioned
my new work to mark its acquisition of a beautiful Lucerne facsimile edition of the
Book of Kells.

My ( one movement ) work is an imaginative sound-scape of Early Medieval
Ireland with all its saints and sinners and druids and shamaans and churches
and battle-fields, a world of Homeric heroes and Christian mystics,
monastic asceticism and worldly colour.
It is no mere programmatic work
but an ” abstract ” composition in its own right. Here is terse
musical discourse with the eternally fresh sounds of beaten bronze,
metal, wood and steel.


These five short chapters in my book of pain, my “Fields Of Sorrow”,
were born in 1995 when the Hamburg Culture Minister , Christine Weiß,
asked me to compose music to commemorate the 50 th. anniversary of the
Hanseatic city´s Jewish community´s liberation from Auschwitz.
I protested :
“I am neither German nor Jewish”…. Yes, we Irish have had our full of
fields of sorrow ; and yet the mystery of this particula Black Hole is
something quite other.
Can music express suffering ? Horror? Yes, it can – Orpheus´s music
did. Also there is that of Marsyas ( the wind-player ) being flayed alive by
Apollo (- the string-player ) .
My five short chapters tell their own, different stories: in the first
, bells and vibraphone insist on the drums´ horrible message. Chains,
police-whistle and wood-blocks in the second initiate the chase. In the
third crotales get their hard blows , anti-melody on the vibraphone. (
Music is always metaphor) . Triangles are bright spots of pain. In the
last chapter , all lights dim.
The dead, muffled timpani, are alone.


25 AUGUST 2018

Festival of Families

25 August 2018 – Croke Park, Dublin

Mornington Singers was the featured choir in this event involving singers, dancers, performers and musicians from across Ireland and all over the world, with a musical score arranged and conducted by David Brophy.
21: anniversary concert

23 June 2018 – Trinity College Chapel, Dublin
Orla Flanagan, conductor

2018 marks the 21st anniversary of Mornington Singers. We celebrated this milestone and our twenty-one year history with a concert featuring some of our favourite music from over the years, and were delighted to have a number of our former members join us in an encore.

William Byrd: Sing joyfully
Colin Mawby: Alleluia, Christus resurrexit
Rhona Clarke: Regina coeli
Frank Corcoran: Caoine
James MacMillan: The gallant weaver

5.2.2001 IRISH TIMES ( DOUGLAS SEALY) REVIEW N.S.O. , Cond. Richard Pittman

3 PIECES FOR ORCHESTRA ( 1975 ) Frank Corcoran
– t
4. SYMPHONY Witold Lutoslawski

3. SYMPHONY Frank Corcoran

In the first of six concerts focussing on classics of 20th. c. music – the Horizon series – Frank Corcoran chose as the centre piece a work of “a giant figure ” on his creative horizon, Witold Lutoslawski.

Listening to the works by the two composers in the N C H on Tuesday, it was clear that they shared a language, even if the did not speak the same dialect. Lutoslawski preserves the strongest links with the culture of the past.
Corcoran has shed , not without violence , a load of such trappings. His “THREE PIECES” , subtitled ” Pictures From MY Exhibition”, gloried in the freedom that belongs to tge youthful spirit. Sent up like a kite, the music was at the mercy of the winds which snapped at the vanes and whistled stridently through them; but the cord held, thanks in no small measure to Richard Pittman’s resourceful control and the wholehearted response of the N.S.O.

Lutoslawski’s FOURTH SYMPHONY, written in 1992, has not taken long to become a “classic”. Certainly it has a nobility and breadth that can accomodate extremes – the garish and the sombre, the pithy and the rhetorical without discomfort; and it abounds in contrasting layers of sound and movement ….

Frank Corcoran’s THIRD SYMPHONY , only two years younger than Lutoslawski’s Fourth, uses similar techniques , but in a more compressed form. The flavour of iconoclasm, so evident in the ThHREE PIECES . lingers but only adds a touch of acerbity to the large-scale drama of the whole.
Richard Pittman and the N.S.O. made it triumphantly expressive.


CORCORAN, Frank Mad Sweeney first US performance

CORELLI, Arcangelo Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8
CORNELL, Richard Thrushfield WP, Tracer WP, Umai’s Journey WP
COREA, Chick Isfahan
COWELL, Henry Ostinato Pianissimo, Quartet Romantic
CROCKETT, Donald The Cinnamon Peeler
CRUMB, George Ancient Voices of Children, An Idyll for the Misbegotten, 11 Echoes of Autumn, Night of the 4 Moons, Songs, Drones & Refrains of Death
DALLAPICCOLA, Luigi Cinque frammenti di Saffo, Due liriche di Anacreonte, Goethe Lieder, Piccola musica notturna, Sex carmina alcaei
DAUGHERTY, Michael Dead Elvis WP (& 1st Italian perf.), Flamingo (1st UK perf.), Lex, Little Firecracker, Lounge Lizards, Sinatra Shag WP, These Boots . . WP
DAVIDOVSKY, Mario Biblical Songs, Quartetto, Sefarad WP, Synchronisms No. 2
DEAN, Brett
Sextet (first Boston perf.)
DEBUSSY/SMITH, Hale Pagodes & Soiree dans Grenade WP
DENISOV, Edison La vie en rouge
DONATONI, Franco Arpege, Holly WP, Hot, Spiri
DRUCKMAN, Jacob Animus IV (1st UK perf.), Come Round
DURKO, Zsolt Fire Music (1st US perf)
DUSAPIN, Pascal Comoedia (1st US perf.)
EARLS, Paul Augenmusik WP, Eliotime WP
EDWARDS, George Kreuz und Quer WP
EISLER, Hanns Chamber Symphony, Vierzehn Arten den Regen zu beschreiben, Septett No. 2
ELLINGTON, Duke Body and Soul, Choo-Choo, Creole Love Call, Demi-Tasse, East St. Louis Toodle-loo, Fugue-a-Ditty, Jam-a-Ditty, A Lull at Dawn, Mood Indigo, On a Turquoise Cloud, Rockin’ in Rhythm, Self Portrait (of the Bean),Tiger Rag
ELMQUIST, John Junk Shot
ERB, Donald The Devil’s Quickstep
ETLER, Alvin Cello Concerto, Sextet
FALLA, Manuel de El corregidor y la molinera
FELCIANO, Richard Shadows WP
FELDMAN, Morton For Frank O’Hara, The Viola in my Life II
Serenade for Six
FINE, Irving Notturno for Strings and Harp (1st UK perf.)
FOSS, Lukas Embros, Tashi, Time Cycle
Chromance WP
FRANCAIX, Jean L’Horloge de flore
FÜSSL, Karl Heinz Miorita (1st US perf.)
GABRIELI, Giovanni Canzon septimi toni No. 1, Canzona noni toni, Canzone per sonare 2 & 4, Sonata pian’ e forte
GANDOLFI, Michael Budget Cuts WP, Grooved Surfaces WP, The Pied Piper of Hamelin WP, Pinocchio’s Adventures in Funland
GARFEIN, Herschel Striptease
GAULDIN, Robert Collage WP
GEMINIANI, Francesco Concerto grosso in E minor, Op. 3, No. 3
GENTILE, Ada In un silenzio Ordinato (1st US perf.)
GERHARD, Roberto Libra
GERSHWIN, George Lullaby for Strings
GERSHWIN/BRODY Nice Work if You Can Get It WP
GERSHWIN/CHILD Phase-inatin’ Rhythm WP
GERSHWIN/HOFFER Fantasia on They Can’t Take That Away From Me WP
GILBERT, David Petit concert WP, Shade Pulsations WP, 4 Songs of Wind WP
GLANERT, Detlev Geheimer Raum
GLASS/MORAN Juniper Tree Variations WP
GREENE, Patrick The Tortoise and the Hare WP, Machine Language for Beginners WP
GRIFFES, Charles Poem for Flute & Orchestra
GROSSKOPF, Erhard Triodie II (1st US perf.)
GRUBER, H.K. Cello Concerto WP, Frankenstein!!, Three MOB Pieces (1st US perf.)
GRUENBERG, Louis The Creation, A Negro Sermon
HANDEL, G.F. Concerti grossi 1-12, Op. 6
HANDY, W.C./WHITEMAN Aunt Hagar’s Blues
HARBISON, John Exequien for Calvin Simmons WP, Mirabai Songs, 6 Dumbshows WP, The Seven Ages
HARRIS, Donald Five Tempi (Ludus III) WP, For the Night to Wear WP, Ludus I, Ludus II WP (& 1st European perf.)
HARRISON, Lou Praise for the Beauty of Hummingbirds
HEISS, John Songs of Nature WP
HERMAN, Richard Stehen Crane Cycle
HINDEMITH, Paul Der Dämon, Die junge Magd, Kammermusiken 1,2,4; Septet for Winds
HINES, Earl Grand Terrace Shuffle
HEPPENER, Robert Derivazioni (1st UK perf.)
HOELLER, York Ex tempore
HOFFER, Bernard A Boston Cinderella WP, Capriccio: Settembre Musica WP, Ma Goose WP, The Nine Circles WP, The Three Little Pigs WP, Concerto da Camera II WP, Lear in theWilderness WP, Paul Revere’s Ride WP
HOLLIGER, Heinz Erde und Himmel (1st US perf.), Glühende Rätsel (1st US perf.)
HOLST, Gustav Brook Green Suite, St. Paul’s Suite
HUBER, Klaus Ascensus (1st US perf.), Auf die ruhige Nacht-Zeit (1st US perf.)
HUGGLER, John Bittere Nüsse WP, Capriccio sregolato WP, Music for 13 Instruments WP, Serenata WP
HUGHES, Curtis Verbiage WP
HURST, Derek Pas de trois WP
HYLA, Lee Amnesia Variance WP, Lives of the Saints WP, Polish Folksongs WP
INCE, Kamran Hammer Music WP
IVES, Charles At Sea, Calcium Light Night, Central Park in the Dark, Incantation, Like a Sick Eagle, Luck & Work, The Rainbow, Scherzo (All the Way Around and Back), Scherzo (Over the Pavements), The See’r, A Set of Pieces for Theatre Orchestra, Sets 1 & 3, Tone Roads 1 & 3 (1st Russian perf.), The Unanswered Question
IVES/PITTMAN, Richard 5 Street Songs WP
KNUSSEN, Oliver Rosenkranzlieder (1st US perf.)
KRAFT, William Concerto for Percussion & Chamber Ensemble WP, Gallery 4-5, Settings from Pierrot Lunaire WP




How nice if our dawg, Flippy learned to write
A Canine Sonnet, whinge and whistle, all
His doggy sounds, his very little soul.
‘Twould charm’n console me, all this blessed night.

His octet could be all about his food,
Our mythic journey up from Italy,
Our neighbours’ dogs, so proudly running free.
His sestet, then, just might attempt the lewd.

This night so cold, ” -poor Flippy has no soul…”
Cartesian vivisectors have none either .
( I’d like to try on them the old meat-saw,

A Saudi princeling had as his black goal… )
Nor sense of humour, no nor ethics neither,
His Arab heart breaks decency and law.



July 14 Orvieto Teatro Mancinelli

July 15 Bolsena Piccolo Teatro Cavour .

“Il Concerto di Dublino” premier “HOT DIALOGUES” for Viola and Piano ( 2018 ).

Hot stuff; electric gleam as snakes snooze back in the baked garden….