Most of Corigliano's work has been for symphony orchestra. He employs a wide variety of styles, sometimes even within the same work, but aims to make his work accessible to a relatively large audience. He has written symphonies, as well as works for string orchestra, and wind band. Additionally, Corigliano has written concerti for clarinet, flute, violin, oboe, and piano; film scores; various chamber and solo instrument works, and the opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, which enjoyed a success at the premiere. His Clarinet Concerto is the first by an American composer to have entered the standard repertoire since that of Aaron Copland.
In 1991 he was awarded the University of LouisvilleGrawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his Symphony No. 1 (1991), which was inspired by the AIDS crisis. In 2001 he received the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 2 (2001). Corigliano composed dramatic scores for the 1980 film Altered States, the 1985 film Revolution and Francois Girard's 1997 film The Red Violin. The award-winning score for Revolution is one of Corigliano's most impressive creations although it is less known, as it was never released in any recorded format; it has existed in a bootleg form until Varese Sarabande officially released the score for a limited time in December 2009 through their CD club, which will be released in stores as a regular release later in 2010. Corigliano did, however, export portions of the score for use in his first symphony. Portions of the score to The Red Violin were also used in his Violin Concerto (2003). In 1970 Corigliano teamed up with David Hess to create The Naked Carmen. In a recent communication with David Hess, Hess acknowledged that The Naked Carmen was originally conceived by Corigliano and himself as a way to update the most popular opera of our time referring to Bizet's Carmen. Mercury Records wanted the classical and popular divisions to work together and after a meeting with Joe Bott, Scott Mampe and Bob Reno it was decided to proceed with the project. In Hess's own words, the project was "a collective decision."