The first piece was
6 Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
by Gyorgy Ligeti (1953) played by the Daedalus Wind Quintet. This piece was written before Ligeti was driven from Hungary by the failed uprising of 1956. The composer himself describes them as ‘frankly, ancient and today they seem to me to be absolutely prehistoric’. Listening to them is like going to a Picasso exhibition and seeing the artists earliest works. There is no sign of the revolutionary methods to come. These short ‘Bagatelles’ are romantic, much lighter than is typical of Ligeti – and indeed the rest of the concert programme – but nonetheless show that Corcoran’s oldest Hamburg colleague was a master of conventional technique before evolving his later characteristic musical language.
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
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
, 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 Bhr
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. By steering between impertinence
and avoidance Corcoran succeeds in creating an affecting and intense piece of music intimately bound up with its subject.The performances throughout the whole concert were expert, and really made you appreciate the fact that the fruits of such an investmentof time and talent were given to the public for free.Overall, the concert was well chosen, and if some of its parts were demanding, they were more than balanced by the immediacy and sensuality of Corcoran’s landscapes – almost as visual as the paintings that surrounded us.
Published on 1 November 2001