The American Saxophone Quartet by Antonin Dvorák arr. Melanie Thorne (Saxophone Quartet)

I often feel that the reason saxophone transcriptions don’t work is because saxophonists are now so technically advanced that often straight transcriptions are technically possible…. Thankfully Melanie Thorne has used the essence of the music and her ear to arrange the Dvorák Quartet in F.  Even on sections within the range of the soprano she goes down the octave to keep the integrity of the line, thus avoiding those strange interval leaps I often hear on arrangements.  Articulations have been changed from the original and I felt that often when arranging double stops, she has opted for the most logical and melodic options in the part to keep the line horizontal.  In a nutshell, it works….. It would be great fun to play for an advanced quartet, and is not technically so difficult that you’d have to be at a conservatoire to have a crack at it. Gerard McChrystal


Brandenburg Concerto No 3 by J S Bach arr. Melanie Thorne (Saxophone Octet)

Having reviewed some cracking arrangements and original works by Melanie Thorne I was interested to see what she would do with one of Bach’s most famous pieces. But here there are no sections where Bach starts to swing, or where there’s a witty take on a famous tune.  It’s just a classy, nicely paced arrangement.

Most of the tricky sections sit well on the horn, which gives this arrangement a good chance of adding something new to the original.  There is space and lightness in the sound, with clever use of articulation and doubling in places.  All the parts are balanced, meaning that the ensemble couldn’t have any passengers.

It keeps within the normal range of the saxophone, which is a relief.  I’ve heard so many transcriptions that use the altissimo and often these are the passages that sound uncomfortable.  The main asset of this arrangement is that it works from start to finish.  It just takes that one little section that doesn’t work to make the listener draw the conclusion that the saxophone is always playing arrangements.  This one is so convincing that the listener could be in danger of simply enjoying this wonderful music. Gerard McCrystal

Sonnerie de Ste. Genevieve du Mont du Paris by Marin Marais arr. Melanie Thorne
(Saxophone Octet)

‘Sonnerie de Ste. Genevieve du Mont de Paris’ by Marin Marais would be a tricky intro to make for an Irishman with elongated vowels like me.  However, this is a fabulous arrangement.  Clever us of octave and canons builds this bell-like piece to a fantastic climax.  It is an exploration of the sound and resonance of the octet, and the articulation, clearly marked, will make or break any performance.  With lots of instruments playing at least mf, observing the dynamics is the key.  All the parts are equally important.

It’s not that hard and so well written that a Grade 6 ensemble will sound polished with this arrangement.  Quirky, personal and original – and recommended, as long as I don’t have to introduce it.  Pas de problème. Gerard McCrystal


Brandenburg Concerto No 3 by J S Bach arr. Melanie Thorne (Clarinet Octet)

Of Bachs’ six Brandenburg Concertos, the third, composed for the homogenous instrumentation of three violins, three violas, three cellos with contrabass and harpsichord most readily suggests arrangement for a clarinet ensemble.  Melanie Thorne uses an ensemble of E-flat clarinet (or B-flat clarinet substitute), four B-flat clarinets, alto clarinet (or B-flat clarinet alternate) and two bass clarinets – with low F as lowest note.  Bach’s original key of concert G major is raised a half step so that in the new key of A-flat major the B-flat clarinets play in notated B-flat major and the E-flat in F major.

Occasionally Thorne expands Bach’s violin writing an octave higher in the E-flat clarinet.  Each of the eight discrete parts is medium to hard in difficulty requiring excellent articulation skill to perform the running 16th notes for several measures a a time with only a few slurs – of course, additional slurs could be added.

All in all, this is a realistic arrangement that will delight clarinetists with the music’s buoyant optimism. Gregory Barrett


Don Giovanni Overture by W A Mozart arr. Melanie Thorne (Clarinet Octet)

Melanie Thorne has created another winner.  The scoring for E-flat clarinet (or B-flat substitute), four B-flat clarinet parts, two alto clarinet (one part can be played on B-flat) and two bass clarinets.  Mozart’s original keys of D minor’D major have been lowered to C minor/C major.  Bass clarinet parts descent to only low E.  The level of difficulty is directly proportional to the speed you choose to play!  Although titled for clarinet octet, I wouldn’t hesitate to have multiple players on a part. Good for festival days and college choirs. Gregory Barrett


Il Signor Bruschino Overture by Gioacchino Rossini arr. Melanie Thorne (Clarinet Choir)

Melanie Thorne is widesly known for her compositions and arrangements for a variety of chamber ensembles.  Sempre Music publishes most of her works.  Her proficiency as a teacher and performer has given her the skill to produce arrangements that are idiomatic and that showcase the expressive characteristics of diverse ensembles.

This arrangement is for clarinet choir of E-flat clarinet, five B-clarinets, alto clarinet and two bass clarinets.  Clarinet 1 doubles the E-flat clarinet throughout, making this work useable by high school students who do not have an E-flat clarinet available to them.  The parts in the arrangement do not exceed the usual range of the clarinet, only reaching to altissimo E.

In Rossini’s original, after the slow introduction, the string players solemnly tap their bows to the candeholders attached to their music stands.  This created a stir at the time, but among modern audiences bow tapping is not considered unusual.  Thorne used key clicks by the clarinets to copy this effect.  Thorne does a good job of capturing the quintessential Rossini, his light-heartedness, his flurry of scales and thrilling crescendos. Lori Ardovino


Symphony IV William Boyce arr. Melanie Thorne (Clarinet Choir

Mid-18th century English composer William Boyce wrote three-movement symphonies in a conservative style.  This arrangement by Melanie Thorne is perfectly suited for a one-day clarinet festival.  The music is tuneful and dance-like.  Thorne’s instrumentation has built-in flexibility for use with a medium to large choir.  For example, a B-flat clarinet part is supplied to replace E-flat sopranino.  The six distinct B-flat parts would be welcomed by an ensemble that was light on alto and bass clarinets.  Two alto parts are included, but the first alto part is an alternate of the sixth B-flat clarinet and and second alto part is mostly doubled by one of the other B-flat parts.  The bass clarinet part descents to only low G.  A very easy optional timpani part is included in the first and last movements. Gregory Barrett


Symphony IV William Boyce arr. Melanie Thorne (Saxophone Octet)

Well, William Boyce was a man who definitely wanted to have his cake and eat it – or to finish both his beer and his symphony….The lilting second movement, marked Vivace ma non troppo, is under two minutes long – just perfect for the short-attention-span generation.  The symphony finishes with a charming gavotte which also doesn’t push the two-minute mark.  Less is certainly more here….This is an inspired arrangement.  It works brilliantly on saxes, especially some of the articulated lines on the bari parts.  The top parts are quite florid, but are in G major, so would be playable by most Grade 6+ ensembles.  I especially like the use of dynamics and articulation in the last movement to enhance its charm and bounce.  Once again, a cracking arrangement from Melanie Thorne. Gerard McCrystal

Overture to Il Signor Bruschino Rossini arr. Melanie Thorne (Saxophone Octet)

Il Signor Bruschino was a one-act opera by Rossini that was premiered in Venice in 1813.  It didn’t have its UK premiere until Kent Opera had a crack at it in 1960.  The overture is lively and witty and key clicks give the piece a percussive humour.  Rossini lives up to his Signor Crescendo nickname in this piece, although I especially liked some of the really effective fortissimo-piano terrace dynamics, which stop the piece being too ‘blastissimo’ and give it a sense of fresh start and build-up.  Technically straightforward, it is a pleasing romp for the octet. Gerard McCrystal

Danse Macabre Camille Saint-Saëns arr. Melanie Thorne (Saxophone Octet)

It is an ambitious undertaking to arrange Saint-Saëns’ classic work.  Melanie Thorne has managed not to over-orchestrate the piece, and this lightness keeps the energy of the music going.  The fast triplet section will test the ensemble’s rhythm and coordination.  I suspect the arrangement if for a conservatoire-standard octet, although the virtuosic sections bark more than they bite as they are just fast chromatic scales.  The instruments stay within range, which takes a lot of thought and consideration from any arranger.  This is a really effective arrangement and would sound very impressive in performance. Gerard McCrystal


1st Menuetto and Adagio from Gran Partita  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arr. Melanie Thorne (Clarinet Octet) Editor’s Choice

These two movements from Mozart’s tour de force Serenade in B flat K361 Gran Partita have been arranged by Melanie Thorne for clarinet octet.  This is E flat, four B flats, alto clarinet (or a fifth B flat) and two bass clarinets.  These movements make perfect material for clarinet ensembles where players may not get the chance to play the original version for 13 winds, offering a valuable opportunity to explore wonderful examples of classical Harmoniemusik.

In the Minuetto, Thorne has followed the structure of the minuet and two trios, but rather than a simple transcription the material has been arranged so that the interest is spread out among the whole choir.  It also means that the lines are very independent, and where, for example, clarinet 2 might be paired with clarinet 3 for a few phrases, it will soon join clarinet 4 for a figure.  The bass clarinets are not solely playing the bassoon parts, but both players and the also clarinet each get a bit of the bassoon triplet figure n the second trio.  Clarinets 3 and 4 will have a few bars to practise, and the alto gets the tune from time to time.  The first trio, originally for two clarinets and two basset horns, has been expanded, doubling some phrases at the octave.

The clarinet choir is well suited to the famous Adagio, and is able to give an effective, homogeneous ostinato accompaniment with easy projection of the melodies.  The original melody moves between oboe, clarinet and basset horn 1.  In this arrangements it is mainly given to E flat and clarinet 1, and while clarinets 2, 3 and 4 take the bulk of the accompaniment they do at least get a snippet of melody at some point.  The two bass clarinets share the bass line, with bass clarinet 1 venturing up to a D above the stave at one point.  As with the Menuetto, the arrangement has added some extra octaves to fill out the texture.  Dynamic markings are clear, but it will be up to the director and the players themselves to piece together the various elements to bring out each individual line and get the balance right.  Fortunately, the discoveries made through working on a piece like this are as good as any finaly performance. Stephanie Reeve 

Adagio K411 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arr. Melanie Thorne (Clarinet Quintet)

For those who do not have the luxury of seven other players but do have four friends available, there is more Mozart from Melanie Thorne: the beautiful Adagio in B flat K411, originally for two B flat clarinets and three basset horns.  This transcription if for three B flats, alto and bass clarinet, and all five parts enjoy equal interest.  The top two clarinet parts play as intended, with clarinet 3 taking basset horn 1.  The alto clarinet is written a tone above the original basset horn 2 part, so this is close to the range originally intended.  The bass clarinet takes basset horn 3 as this is the only part to use the lowest notes.

As a single movement work it is a gem and a delight to play, with interweaving lines, moving from light to shade in an instant and contrasting pulsing semiquavers over long sustained tones.  Imitation and the resulting dissonances appear in the dark minor passages.  As with the larger Mozart works, the layout is clear, markings are precise and well placed, and this will work well for an equally matched quintet.  It is a welcome addition to the small ensemble repertoire for Grade 5 and above. Stephanie Reeve

1st Menuetto and Adagio from Gran Partita Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
arr. Melanie Thorne

Melanie Thorne is at it yet again with two more arrangements for clarinet ensemble.  Very little information is available about her as a musician, but her online presence is considerable as a composer/arranger.  She has published a formidable number of clarinet solo and chamber music works with Sempre Music.  Her two latest books are clarinet octet arrangements of the second (1st Menuetto) and their (Adagio) movements from Mozart’s Serenade No.10 (Gran Partita), K.361, originally composed in 1781 for two oboes, two clarinets, tow basset horns, two bassoons, contrabassoon and four horns.

Interestingly, the complete title is not listed on the cover of either score.  Both arrangements of this exquisite music are very well balanced with each part containing equally challenging material of moderate/advanced difficulty.  Highly recommended.

Four Movements from the Holberg Suite Edvard Grieg arr. Melanie Thorne

Grieg’s ever-radiant suite for strings is transformed into a workable version for E-flat, four B-flats, alto (one or two) and bass clarinet.  In Thorne’s version the lead line frequently passes between parts, making the E-flat and alto parts indispensable.  The fourth B-flat part and one of the alto parts double each other.  The “Praeludium” requires rapid, light articulation on repeated notes; the “Sarabande” focuses on smooth, careful phrasing; the “Gavotte-Musette” brings the dance ethos to the fore; and the quick “Rigaudon” gives good solo opportunities to the E-flat clarinetist.

Made in the Spirit – traditional arr. Melanie Thorne

Made in the Spirit, by Melanie Thorne, is an arrangement for clarinet quintet of three well-known spirituals:”Down by the Riverside,” “Steal Away” and “When the Saints Come Marching In.”  It is well written, using a good mix of of full ensemble playing together as well as duets and trios within the quintet.

“Down by the Riverside” and “When the Saints Come Marching In” have marked tempos that are brisk, quarter note = 170 and 180, respectively.  In these two faster spirituals, the melody passes through all of the parts.  The first clarinet is the principal player, however the other clarinets carry the melody when entrances are staggered, and when the first clarinet becomes part of the ensemble.  The bass clarinet is the foundation with “oom pahs” occurring on the strong beats, and the harmony supports that with off beats and echo of the tune.  “When the Saints Go Marching In” is heard twice: the first time eighth notes are straight, while the second time eighth notes are swung.  This selection is a one-movement piece with transitions from one section to the next.  The rhythms are simple and it is a short piece, 3-4 minutes.  It is designed for the intermediate player and would provide challenges and enjoyment to that level of player.  The pieces are well arranged for the instrumentation.  This would be a nice piece with which to cap off a concert.

Paper quality is good.  The score is housed in a cover of cardstock weight.  The clarinet parts have no cover – they are an 11″ by 13″ piece of paper folded in half.  No page turns are required for the players.  Printing is easy to read.  The score has groups of staves clearly labeled and the parts have plenty of room between staves for ease of reading and room to write.


Ludwig’s 5th – Ludwig van Beethoven arr. Melanie Thorne

“Any time I review any of Melanie Thorne’s arrangements I’m reminded of that quote from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, “He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!”  It’s always the naughty bits that are tricky.  Just when you are getting used to the impish motif at the beginning, a 3/8 section appears out of nowhere.  A little reminder that sometimes in music you need to subdivide and not just guesstimate a crotchet.

Beethoven’s Fifth is of course the Holy Grail of witty arrangement’s land, after the classic version by Terence Greaves called ‘Beethoven’s Fifth Bossa Nova’.  Whereas the Greaves is absolute ‘lol (I am laughing inside on a train thinking about that horn whoop) the Thorne is more of a ‘sitoc’ (smile inside thinking of chocolate).  The arrangement is stronger because it waits a while before introducing the famous tat tat tat tong theme.  The performer could have fun with the audience getting them to guess the piece.  I could imagine it would be great for a ‘Live Music Now!’ gig or play it on ‘Britain’s God Talent!’ to see if Simon notices the difference (cue sound of buzzer).  The parts are very well written and level is around grade six.  It uses the normal octet line-up of double quartet.  My favourite section is where part of the original first movement is put into a waltz.  Very Pythonesque.” Gerard McChrystal


Clogs Away! – Ferdinand Hérold arr. Melanie Thorne

Clogs Away! is based on the ‘Clog Dance’ from ‘La Fille Mal Gardée’ (for the initiated) or the music that Sony used recently to plug their new Bravia 3D TV for the rest of us.  I like the fact that Melanie Thorne resisted the urge to jazz this one up.  The sign of a good arranger is knowing what to leave out as well as what to put in.  The original is light and full of humour so there was little to change.  This is a spacious and lightly scored version which does the original great service.  The tune is spread around and the ensemble would all need to have a lovely French articulation to bring the energy of the piece to life.  It is such a happy and easy going piece that listeners will, like Kenny G’s ‘Songbird’, be humming it for days after.  Unlike ‘Songbird’ they may actually welcome it in their head.” Gerard McChrystal


Toccetta – J S Bach arr. Melanie Thorne

“Here we have a witty arrangement of Bach.  Is nothing sacred Sempre Music?  The answer is definitely no and for that we are all the better for it.  The piece is based on a mis-spelling of the work Toccata.  I’m laughing already!  This S,A3,T,B sextet is based on the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor.  Melanie Thorne does a great job on the opening.  Using quaver triplets and clear markings, she simplifies the opening and makes it straightforward to put together.  I have seen other versions that have just too many pauses and changes of tempo to make this section work cohesively.

I was quite impressed at Thorne’s restraint in this one because she waits for 33 bars before getting up to any mischief.  However, like a missed England penalty, you know it’s coming.  The fugue starts to swing.  I have always felt that when baroque fugues are played well they have a natural groove to them so a gentle nudge on that offbeat quaver is all it takes to get Bach to go to town … hey, could be a new title …

The trick, in this really nicely written arrangement, is to match the swing quavers of all the parts.  It needs to be a gentle groove not a ‘rooty tooty lets get fruity’ special that one often hears when classical musicians let down what’s left of their hair.  It would take a fair bit of practice to maintain the swing in this section.

Once again we have an eminently usable version of a Bach classic.  The problem with Thorne’s arrangements is that they are so catchy that you may never be able to hear the original in the same light again.  And for that we are all the better for it.” Gerard McChrystal


In the Hall of the Mountain King – E Grieg arr. Melanie Thorne

“R U Ready 2 Rock say Yeah!  Well if Beethoven can waltz then Grieg can rock.  The main reason that Melanie Thorne’s arrangements work so well is that she takes an element of the original and exaggerates it a little, OK a lot.  The piece has a beautifully written build-up to the rock section of the Grieg, first time I’ve written that sentence.  The first five quavers of that famous ‘look behind you’ theme are used to develop the opening section.  The bari’s role is that of a kid building a lovely sandcastle of the main theme before jumping on it, to kick off the rock section.

As ever it sits nicely under the fingers although it is quite technically challenging in places.  Look out for the little quintuplet semiquaver flourishes if you try to play safe and sit on alto two. Overall coming in a about grade six-seven, lots of sextets would have a blast playing this one.” Gerard McChrystal


Yabadidoo is an excellent, short, original composition piece that is harder than it looks. It has a good, fast swing feel with lots of syncopation, lots of time changes and the parts have to interlock very neatly. Andy Tweed

Classical Gas is about Grade 6 and there is plenty for all the players to do. I can see Classical Gas being a useful concert piece for a saxophone department with some strong players. Andy Tweed

Cool Cats Trio is about Grade 3 standard. I liked it; it is a well-constructed, attractive piece and would be ideal for group work. Andy Tweed


After the Sun is one of Melanie Thorne’s best works for saxophone ensemble. This is excellent training material for student ensembles, producing the satisfaction of conquering a relatively complex chamber music piece, and at the same time producing a really good concert item. Richard Ingham


..’three flute quartet arrangements Rondo a la Caccia, Country Garden and Made in England … are among the best I have ever seen’. Ann Cherry

Two Trumpets, a Brush, a Stick & a String ..’these are inventive duets that offer something unusual .. and well worth the modest price tag of just £8.50′. Paul Denegri


Stuck in the Groove ..’This, this, this, this is a witty quartet for AAAT…. I loved the way that each instrument gets a solo so that the baritone doesn’t get stuck on the base line throughout’. Gerard McChrystal

Have we met somewhere before? ..’Once again the music is beautifully crafted and each
instrument has an important part to play. I love the way that these musical conversations convey the wit of the piece’. Gerard McChrystal

MUSIC TEACHER (October 2004)

Music ..'(Music), an arrangement by Melanie Thorne of the original by John Miles, is an excellent saxophone sextet (saattb)….’ Richard Ingham

Eine Kleine Saxophonmusik ..’It’s good, it’s groovy, and in no way cheapens the original … More, please, from Sempre Music’. Richard Ingham


Nine Lives ..’This book is a collection of original pieces, accessible to beginners … My pupils liked it much better than the fairly traditional repertoire of nursery rhymes
and popular classics – they …. felt it was quite a grown-up book to play.’ Sara Wilson

Flutes with Attitude ..’If you’re looking for something a little bit different for a flute quartet, Flutes with Attitude would make a fun concert piece’. Yvonne McIlwaine