Frank Corcoran

irish composer


Corcoran, Frank

(b Borrisokane, Tipperary, 1 May 1944). Irish composer. He studied music, philosophy, ancient languages, and theology at Maynooth, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, and in Rome, and composition in Berlin with Blacher (1969–71). He has served as music inspector for the Irish Department of Education (1971–9), been a guest of the Berlin Artist’s Programme (1980–81), and has taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Stuttgart (1982–3) and the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Hamburg (from 1983). He was elected to Aosdána, the Irish academy of creative artists, in 1983. He was a Fulbright visiting professor and Fulbright scholar in the USA in 1989–90. His compositions have won a number of prizes including the Studio Akustische Kunst First Prize in 1996 for Joycepeak Music, first prize at the Bourges International Electro-acoustic Music Competition in 1999 for Sweeny’s Vision, the EMS Prize, Stockholm in 2002 for Quasi Una Missa, and the International Federation for Choral Music’s Second International Competition for Choral Composition for Eight Haikus in 2013.

Corcoran has developed a distinct and complex language of aleatory macro-counterpoint in which sound layers are superimposed polyphonically but retain independence through distinctive polymetric, agogic, and dynamic indications. This technique is evident from the early Piano Trio (1978) to Ice Etchings no.1 and Mad Sweeney (both 1996). The later was the first of a series of works initially inspired by Seamus Heaney’s translation of the Irish epic. His many cultural interests are reflected in the texts of his vocal works; the opera Gilgamesh (1990), for example, is based on a Sumerian epic. The Irische Mikrokosmoi for piano (1993) are based on traditional Irish melodies and rhythms. From 1999 until 2009 to he worked on a series of works utilizing the descriptor ‘quasi’. These ranged from orchestral works such as Quasi un canto and Quasi una Visione to solo instrumental works such as Quasi un Basso.


KdG (A. Kreutziger-Herr)

A. Klein: Die Musik Irlands im 20. Jahrhundert (Hildesheim, 1996)

E. O’Kelly: ‘Frank Corcoran’, The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, ed. W.J. McCormack (Oxford, 1999)

J. Page: ‘A Post-War “Irish” Symphony: Frank Corcoran’s Symphony no. 2’, Irish Musical Studies 7: Irish Music in the Twentieth Century, ed. G. Cox and A. Klein (Dublin, 2003)

Gareth Cox/Mark Fitzgerald

Posted under: Humble Hamburg Musings

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