Francis Thorne’s music was not performed professionally until he was 40 years old. He had been, respectively, Naval officer, banker, stockbroker, and jazz pianist. Although he had two years of study with Paul Hindemith at Yale, Hindemith discouraged a composing career. It wasn’t until he had private studies with David Diamond in Florence, Italy, that he developed the craftsmanship and confidence to pursue a professional composing career.
Thorne’s first orchestral work after completing his studies with Diamond was Elegy for Orchestra. When Eugene Ormandy premiered it with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1964, the Philadelphia Bulletin described it as “deeply felt and effective.” The success of Elegy brought Thorne back from Florence to New York, where he combined music administration and composing. His catalogue of works includes seven symphonies, fifteen concerti, four string quartets, and the opera Mario and the Magician.
He was Executive Director of the Walter M. Naumberg Foundation and the American Composers Alliance, and was President and CEO of the American Composers Orchestra for many years. He also spent two years as Executive Director of Lyn Austin’s Music Theater Group and, for seven years, he ran the Thorne Music Fund which awarded three-year fellowships to American composers of “mature years and recognized accomplishments.” Recipients of these fellowships included Stefan Wolpe, Ben Weber, Lou Harrison, David Diamond, Jacob Druckman, Lucia Dlugoszewski, and Henry Brant among others.
He served on the Boards of the MacDowell Colony, The Manhattan School of Music, Composers Recordings, Inc., American Music Center, American Brass Quintet, the Group for Contemporary Music, the American Composers Alliance, and the Walter M. Naumberg Foundation. He also served on the music panel of the New York State Council on the Arts.
Thorne’s awards include the American Academy of Arts and Letters, three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, two Ford Foundation Recording Awards, a Fairleigh Dickinson University Award, the ACA Laurel Leaf Award, a BMI Certificate of Excellence for service to American music, and residencies with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Cabrillo Festival (three times), Harvard University, Connecticut College, and the New Hampshire Music Festival.
He received commissions from, among others, the Seattle Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Albany Symphony (three times), Youngstown and Shreveport Symphonies, Valerie Bettis Dance Company, New Haven and Springfield Symphonies, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Cabrillo Festival as well as numerous chamber ensembles. Other important orchestral performances have been with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Denver Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Kansas City Philharmonic, the New York Pops Orchestra, the Guggenheim Concert Band, and the Westchester Philharmonic.
He was elected in 1988 to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, where he has served as Treasurer and Board Member. He also belonged to the American Composers Alliance, American Music Center, and was a member of the Century Association and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI).
Thorne passed away on March 7, 2017. His music is published by Merion Music (Theodore Presser Company), C.F. Peters, and General Music, and is recorded on New World Records, CRI, Louisville and Serenus.
Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation Solo Centennial Fanfare 3:00 Organ Double Bass HitFor Solo Contrabass 11:00 Contrabass Electrified Elan 11:00 Electric Guitar The “In” Viol-inFor Solo Violin 9:00 Violin Lyric Variations No. 1For Piano Solo 21:00 Piano Lyric Variations No. 4For Violin 9:00 Violin Lyric Variations No. 6For Solo Cello 9:00 Cello Lyric Variations No. 9For Solo Piano 15:30 Piano Mello’ ‘CelloFor Solo ‘Cello 10:00 Cello Rhapsodic Variations No. 4 9:00 Solo Viola Rhapsodic Variations No. 7 15:30 Piano Seven Simple SyncopationsFor Solo Piano Piano Vi-oh-la-laFor Solo Viola 1:00 Viola Chamber Ensemble Anniversary Fanfare 3:00 0 0 0 0 – 4 3 3 1; 2Perc. Burlesk Pit MusicFor Oboe, Clarinet, and Cello 3:00 Oboe, Clarinet, Cello Chamber Concertofor Solo Violoncello and 10 Instruments 19:00 Solo Vcl.; 1 0 1 1 – 0 1 1 0; 2Perc. Vln. Vla. Cb. Chamber Deviations 9:00 Clarinet, Percussion, Bass Divertimento No. 3In Five Movements 15:15 Woodwind Quintet EvensongsFor Flute, Harp, Guitar, Celeste, and Percussion 15:30 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments) Five Set Pieces 13:00 Saxophone Quartet Head Music 15:51 Clarinet, Cello, Piano Lyric Variations No. 3 12:40 String Trio Lyric Variations No. 8 3:20 Flute, Celeste, Cello PartitaFor Violin-Piano Duo 15:00 Violin, Piano Partita No. 2 17:00 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments) PrufrockBallet Music for Seven Instruments 30:00 1(Picc.) 0 1(B.Cl.) 1 – 0 1 0 0; Perc. El. Gtr. Vcl. Quiet Night Song 9:00 Cello, Piano Remembering Dizzy 10:00 Brass Quintet Rhapsodic Variations No. 2 13:30 Clarinet, Violin, Cello Rhapsodic Variations No. 5 17:00 Violin, Piano Seven Set Piecesfor 13 Players 20:00 0 0 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 0 2 1 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) 2Vla. Cb. String Quartet No. 3 21:00 String Quartet String Quartet No. 4 15:00 String Quartet Choral / Vocal EchoFor Soprano Solo and Mixed Chorus 6:00 Vocal Ensemble Evening PrayerFor S.A.T.B. Chorus With Piano Or Organ 4:00 SATB with Piano Lighten Our DarknessFor S.A.T.B. Chorus With Piano Or Organ 2:30 SATB with Piano Money Mattersfor Tenor, Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Piano, Violin and Cello 21:00 Power 3:00 Voice and Instrument Praise and Thanksgivingfor Mixed Chorus and Orchestra 17:30 SATB Chorus; 1(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 0 0 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str. Symphony No. 7“Along the Hudson” 23:00 SATB Chorus; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Orchestra Burlesque Overture 9:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Concerto for Orchestra 23:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Elegy for Orchestra 13:30 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str. Fantasiafor String Orchestra 9:00 Str. Flash Dances 10:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str. Second Symphony 24:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Songs and Dancesfor Orchestra 19:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Symphony No. 3 23:30 Timp. 5Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str. Symphony No. 5 22:00 3 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; 4Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Symphony No. 6for Stringed Instruments 17:00 Banjo, Pno. Hp. Str. Orchestra with Soloist(s) Cello Concerto No. 2 23:00 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Clarinet Concerto 23:30 Solo Cl.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. Concerto Concertantefor Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Chamber Symphony 17:30 Fl. Cl. Vln. Vcl. soli; 0 2 0 2 – 2 2 3 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str. Fanfare, Fugue and Funkfor Three Trumpets and Orchestra 11:00 3Tpt. soli; 2 2 2 2 – 3 3 3 0; 3Perc. Elec.Gtr. Str. La Luce eternafor Soprano and Orchestra 21:00 Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str. Oboe Concerto 21:00 Solo Ob.; 1(dbl. Picc) 0 1 1 – 1 1 0 0; 1Perc. Hp. Str. Piano Concerto No. 3 23:30 Solo Pno.; 2 2 2 2 – 5 2 3 1; 3Perc. Hp. Str. Rhapsodic Variations No. 1 15:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 2 2 2 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str. Rhapsodic Variations No. 3for Oboe and Strings 15:00 Ob., Str. Sonar Plexusfor Orchestra with Electric Guitar Obbligato 5:30 2 0 2 0 – 4 2 3 0; Timp. 2Perc. El.Gtr. Str. Triple Concertofor Viola, English Horn, Bass Clarinet and Orchestra 23:00 Vla. E.H. B.Cl. Soli; 3(Picc.) 0 0 3(Cbsn.) – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno.(dbl. Cel.) Hp. Str. Violin Concerto 21:00 Vln. Solo; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; Timp. 2Perc. Str. Opera Mario and the MagicianLibretto by J.D. McClatchy, after the story by Thomas Mann 1:10:00 1(Picc.) 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 1; 2Perc. Gt.(Acc./Elec.) Kbd.(Pno./Hpscd.) Str.(16 Players) Band / Wind Ensemble Gems From Spoon Riverfor Band
The music of “Burlesque Overture” is appropriately racy and sardonic, a terrific example of this genre…
A brisk and impudent work; clever, madcap and witty, with slapstick percussion and rowdy dissonance and voicing.
CELLO CONCERTO NO. 2
The “Concerto” marvelously achieves the composer’s goal of insuring that the cello is very exposed, being ‘… one of the most beautiful instruments there is.’ The work’s gorgeous opening for cello and harps is developed into a more forceful section using the entire orchestra but never forgetting the lyrical quality of the work. The second movement is a scherzo which makes effective use of pizzicato strings alternating with a serene middle section again with emphasis on the strings. The closing movement has a mournful tinge to it with interesting intertwining of strings and winds.
–Peter Knoll, The Music Connoisseur
ELEGY FOR ORCHESTRA
The work is attractive for its grace, grandeur and lucidity.
FANFARE, FUGUE AND FUNK
The piece is big in scope, powerful in effect and, unlike many works of its kind, very unified in character.
–Eric Salzman, Stereo Review
…a piece of virtuoso orchestral writing commissioned by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. Though generally tonal, it uses this format as a means to create the brazen orchestral color [Thorne] requires, the percussion given an especially major participation. The first two sections are to classical proportions before mayhem is let loose in the exciting and brilliant final Funk section…
–David Denton, Fanfare
LA LUCE ETERNA
“La Luce Eterna” is full of strong statements of alternatively tough ideas and soaring melody, demandingly yet gracefully written for the voice and glowingly, transparently orchestrated. It’s a model of what such works should be.
–New York Daily News
MARIO AND THE MAGICIAN
Mr. Thorne and his librettist, J.D. McClatchy, have deftly transferred the dark and, yes, mesmerizing essence of this story to the operatic stage without losing its subletly and innuendo. Mr. Thorne’s score is full of pungent harmony, fidgety rhythms and teeming counterpoint…the music provides an effective sense of restless motion, like unconscious forces swirling beneath a calm façade.
–Jeremy Eichler, New York Times
While watching a new opera based on Mario… I felt some inkling of the magician’s power. The music… and the libretto… were so intelligent and coherent that the steadily accumulating evidence of the magician’s abilities left me as uneasy as the members of his onstage audience… It is remarkable to come across a 70-minute opera that has such an immediate impact, particularly when based on a source as sly and ironic as Mann.
–Edward Rothstein, New York Times
PIANO CONCERTO NO. 3
Thorne’s “Third Concerto” has a certain mystery about it, like Stephen Sondheim’s Follies has, a mysterious melding of classical style and a pop medium, each of the movements a small dramatic vignette.
–Ron Emery, Albany Times Union
An unusual mixture of arching melodies and dissonant harmonies, combined with traditional musical gestures that sugarcoat the score’s complexities… the concept is a fascinating one.
–Tim Page , New York Newsday
RHAPSODIC VARIATIONS NO. 1
…knock-em-dead American orchestral style — plenty of brass and jazzy drumming keeping things going, but with a harmonic palette at the intersection of Schoenberg and bebop.
STRING QUARTET NO. 3
A quite extensive work in three movements, it possesses a fleeting return to Bartok in the scherzo, with a desolate closing passage that takes up where the late Beethoven left off.
–David Denton, Fanfare
SYMPHONY NO. 5
The long-lined slow movement is the exquisite heart of Thorne’s four-movement symphony — a noble score that reflects jazz influences in its fast movements and a fascination with Wagnerian chromatic harmonies in its slow movements.
–The New York Post
It’s a showy piece, with much bustling, high-energy syncopation, dazzling motion, color and action, with jazz inspiration unmistakable in parts. The memorable aspect is the serious singing in the slow movement, broad lines that develop warm eloquence. Thorne’s sure harmonic ear is the key to the quality of…”Symphony No. 5.”
–Robert Cammanday, San Francisco Chronicle
SYMPHONY NO. 6
This is a muscular work; its initial 5/4 motive, reminiscent of Bartok, is boldly presented… The second movement… is modeled on Mahler’s famousAdagietto from the “Fifth Symphony,” scored for the same ensemble of harp and strings… Thorne’s rising main theme, unhurried harp arpeggios and the use of solo violin passages also recall the work of the great Austrian master… altogether an extremely engaging work.
–Sean Hickey , New Music Connoisseur
The work’s three movements contain varied materials, ranging from asymmetrical rhythms and elegant solo episodes to lyrical narratives and spiky flights. Thorne’s harmonic language is a cross between American openness and European richness, and he makes deft use of slapping pizzicatos and wide melodic leaps… the symphony is economical and alive…
–Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer
The violin moves with undiverted continuity through its single movement. Its contrasting major sections are connected by skillfully wrought transitions — a handsome, expressive piece.
–San Francisco Chronicle
BURLESQUE OVERTURE; RHAPSODIC VARIATIONS NO. 1; LIEBESROCK; SEVEN SET PIECES; NATURE STUDIES
CRI/New World Records (NWCR586); February 1, 2007
Performer(s): Polish National Radio Orchestra, William Strickland, conductor, Francis Thorne, piano
Work(s): Burlesque Overture
Rhapsodic Variations No. 1
Seven Set Pieces
CRI/New World Records (NWCR828); February 1, 2007
Performer(s): Boehm Quintet: Donald Stewart, clarinet and director; Springfield Symphony Orchestra; Robert Gutter, conductor; The Group for Contemporary Music String Qurartet; Catherine Rowe, soprano; Francis Thorn…
Work(s): String Quartet No. 3
FRANCIS THORNE/ NICOLAS ROUSSAKIS/ ELLIOTT CARTER
CRI/New World Records (NWCR552); February 1, 2007
Performer(s): American Composers Orchestra; Dennis Russell Davies, conductor; Paul Dunkel, conductor
Work(s): Symphony No. 5
MARIO AND THE MAGICIAN
Albany Records (TROY832); April 1, 2006
Performer(s): Center for Contemporary Opera, Richard Marshall, conductor, Justin Vickers, Larry Small, Jessica Grigg, Wendy Brown, Richard Cassell
Work(s): Mario and the Magician
LA LUCE ETERNA
Albany Records (TROY451); July 1, 2001
Performer(s): Manhattan School of Music Philharmonia; Glen Cortese, conductor; Christina Arethas, soprano
Work(s): La Luce Eterna
Rhapsodic Variations No. 7
ROBERT STARER/FRANCIS THORNE: ALBANY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Albany Records (TROY244); May 1, 1997
Performer(s): Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, conductor
Work(s): Symphony No. 7 “Along the Hudson”
CLEVELAND CHAMBER SYMPHONY: NEW AMERICAN MUSIC
Albany Records (TROY208); December 1, 1996
Performer(s): Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Edwin London, conductor
Work(s): Symphony No. 6
CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA/ PIANO CONCERTO NO. 3
CRI/New World Records (80443); January 1, 1994
Performer(s): Westchester Philharmonic, Paul Dunkel, conductor, Ursula Oppens, piano
Work(s): Piano Concerto No. 3
PENTANGLE FOR HORN / ELEGY / VIGIL
Louisville First Edition Recordings (LS 768); January 1, 1980
Performer(s): Louisville Orchestra, Jorge Mester, conductor
Work(s): Elegy for Orchestra
CAROM FOR ORCHESTRA AND MAGNETIC TAPE / TWO PIECES FOR ORCHESTRA / FANFARE, FUGUE AND FUNK
Opus One Recordings (No. 19); January 1, 1974
Performer(s): Springfield Symphony, Robert Gutter, conductor
Work(s): Fanfare, Fugue and Funk
THE MUSIC OF FRANCIS THORNE, VOLUME 1
Serenus Corp. (SRS 12035); January 1, 1972
Performer(s): Prague Chamber Soloists, Jindrich Rohan, conductor
Work(s): Symphony No. 3
1988: American Academy of Arts and Letters
American Academy of Arts and Letters award
3 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships
2 Ford Foundation Recording Awards
Fairleigh Dickinson University Award
ACA Laurel Leaf Award
BMI Certificate of Excellence for service to American music