Francis Thorne

  • 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
    143-40008 Centennial Fanfare
    3:00 Organ
    144-40536 Double Bass Hit
    For Solo Contrabass
    11:00 Contrabass
    144-40350 Electrified Elan
    11:00 Electric Guitar
    144-40533 The “In” Viol-in
    For Solo Violin
    9:00 Violin
    140-40101 Lyric Variations No. 1
    For Piano Solo
    21:00 Piano
    144-40319 Lyric Variations No. 4
    For Violin
    9:00 Violin
    144-40358 Lyric Variations No. 6
    For Solo Cello
    9:00 Cello
    140-40100 Lyric Variations No. 9
    For Solo Piano
    15:30 Piano
    144-40535 Mello’ ‘Cello
    For Solo ‘Cello
    10:00 Cello
    144-40352 Rhapsodic Variations No. 4
    9:00 Solo Viola
    140-40082 Rhapsodic Variations No. 7
    15:30 Piano
    140-40058 Seven Simple Syncopations
    For Solo Piano
    144-40534 Vi-oh-la-la
    For Solo Viola
    1:00 Viola
    Chamber Ensemble
    10031 Anniversary Fanfare
    3:00 0 0 0 0 – 4 3 3 1; 2Perc.
    144-40351 Burlesk Pit Music
    For Oboe, Clarinet, and Cello
    3:00 Oboe, Clarinet, Cello
    15585 Chamber Concerto
    for Solo Violoncello and 10 Instruments
    19:00 Solo Vcl.; 1 0 1 1 – 0 1 1 0; 2Perc. Vln. Vla. Cb.
    144-40356 Chamber Deviations
    9:00 Clarinet, Percussion, Bass
    144-40320 Divertimento No. 3
    In Five Movements
    15:15 Woodwind Quintet
    144-40322 Evensongs
    For Flute, Harp, Guitar, Celeste, and Percussion
    15:30 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments)
    144-40328 Five Set Pieces
    13:00 Saxophone Quartet
    144-40321 Head Music
    15:51 Clarinet, Cello, Piano
    144-40367 Lyric Variations No. 3
    12:40 String Trio
    144-40402 Lyric Variations No. 8
    3:20 Flute, Celeste, Cello
    144-40366 Partita
    For Violin-Piano Duo
    15:00 Violin, Piano
    144-40348 Partita No. 2
    17:00 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments)
    15447 Prufrock
    Ballet Music for Seven Instruments
    30:00 1(Picc.) 0 1(B.Cl.) 1 – 0 1 0 0; Perc. El. Gtr. Vcl.
    144-40318 Quiet Night Song
    9:00 Cello, Piano
    144-40349 Remembering Dizzy
    10:00 Brass Quintet
    144-40323 Rhapsodic Variations No. 2
    13:30 Clarinet, Violin, Cello
    144-40327 Rhapsodic Variations No. 5
    17:00 Violin, Piano
    15451 Seven Set Pieces
    for 13 Players
    20:00 0 0 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 0 2 1 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) 2Vla. Cb.
    144-40357 String Quartet No. 3
    21:00 String Quartet
    144-40365 String Quartet No. 4
    15:00 String Quartet
    Choral / Vocal
    342-40177 Echo
    For Soprano Solo and Mixed Chorus
    6:00 Vocal Ensemble
    342-40160 Evening Prayer
    For S.A.T.B. Chorus With Piano Or Organ
    4:00 SATB with Piano
    342-40171 Lighten Our Darkness
    For S.A.T.B. Chorus With Piano Or Organ
    2:30 SATB with Piano
    15444 Money Matters
    for Tenor, Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Piano, Violin and Cello
    141-40067 Power
    3:00 Voice and Instrument
    15446 Praise and Thanksgiving
    for Mixed Chorus and Orchestra
    17:30 SATB Chorus; 1(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 0 0 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Str.
    15457 Symphony No. 7
    “Along the Hudson”
    23:00 SATB Chorus; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    15434 Burlesque Overture
    9:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    12471 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.
    15438 Elegy for Orchestra
    13:30 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    15440 Fantasia
    for String Orchestra
    9:00 Str.
    15442 Flash Dances
    10:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    15450 Second Symphony
    24:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    23651 Songs and Dances
    for Orchestra
    19:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    15454 Symphony No. 3
    23:30 Timp. 5Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
    15455 Symphony No. 5
    22:00 3 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; 4Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    15456 Symphony No. 6
    for Stringed Instruments
    17:00 Banjo, Pno. Hp. Str.
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    15435 Cello Concerto No. 2
    23:00 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    15436 Clarinet Concerto
    23:30 Solo Cl.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    15437 Concerto Concertante
    for 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.
    15439 Fanfare, Fugue and Funk
    for Three Trumpets and Orchestra
    11:00 3Tpt. soli; 2 2 2 2 – 3 3 3 0; 3Perc. Elec.Gtr. Str.
    15443 La Luce eterna
    for Soprano and Orchestra
    21:00 Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    10104 Oboe Concerto
    21:00 Solo Ob.; 1(dbl. Picc) 0 1 1 – 1 1 0 0; 1Perc. Hp. Str.
    15445 Piano Concerto No. 3
    23:30 Solo Pno.; 2 2 2 2 – 5 2 3 1; 3Perc. Hp. Str.
    15448 Rhapsodic Variations No. 1
    15:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 2 2 2 0; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    15449 Rhapsodic Variations No. 3
    for Oboe and Strings
    15:00 Ob., Str.
    15453 Sonar Plexus
    for Orchestra with Electric Guitar Obbligato
    5:30 2 0 2 0 – 4 2 3 0; Timp. 2Perc. El.Gtr. Str.
    16928 Triple Concerto
    for 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.
    15458 Violin Concerto
    21:00 Vln. Solo; 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 0; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
    16767 Mario and the Magician
    Libretto 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
    16868 Gems From Spoon River
    for 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.
    –Minneapolis Star

    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

    The work is attractive for its grace, grandeur and lucidity.

    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” 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

    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

    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

    …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.

    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

    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

    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 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
    Francis Thorne FRANCIS THORNE
    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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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

  • Elegy
    for Orchestra