The most-performed composers

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John F
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The most-performed composers

Post by John F » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:27 pm

An outfit called Bachtrack tabulates about 32,000 "events" a year, concerts only (not opera), and tells us which composers and which works were the most performed.

In 2017, they were Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky. Audiences have come a long way from when Tchaikovsky was Number One. The most-performed work: Handel's Messiah.

Going further down the list: Haydn, Schumann, Handel, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Dvorak, Shostakovich, J. Strauss II, Vivaldi, Mahler, R. Strauss, Stravinsky. The numbers are here, for 2017 and previous years:

https://bachtrack.com/classical-music-statistics-2017
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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by Lance » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:49 pm

A most interesting graph! I'm a little surprised about Schumann dropping down a bit, and Chopin quite a bit, but Haydn moving upwards. A really nice post to see here, John F! Thank you.
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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by maestrob » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:34 pm

Looks like classical music (at least in concert) is indeed a museum. So be it: I'm comfortable with that. I would love it if recent music would be more appealing, but how are we to know if it's so rarely performed? It looks like the music-going public has made its choice.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by Belle » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:24 pm

What is the criterion for "performance"? Andre Rieu? Wiener Philharmoniker Neujahrskonzert? Small events in provincial centres? I'm wary of these kinds of lists and rankings since we know nothing about the 'control group'.

And maestrob's point is well made; if modern music was better than it is more people would want to hear it in the composer's lifetime. There aren't the excuses to be made today like there were in Beethoven and Schubert's day about why a composer's works weren't performed in their own lifetime. We have unprecedented mass media, concert venues absolutely EVERYWHERE, jet travel and middle class audiences who can afford to pay to hear and see what they want. Modern composers have largely joined a coterie of subsidization and have effectively become 'high priests murmuring amongst themselves' (a phrase I've stolen from the very excellent Camille Paglia).

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:18 pm

Belle wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:24 pm
And maestrob's point is well made; if modern music was better than it is more people would want to hear it in the composer's lifetime.
Actually, his point was "how are we going to know if it's good if it's never played?". Yes, we have unprecedented mass media, concert venues absolutely Everywhere, jet travel, etc. and the music being made there is all Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, etc. One really has to make an effort to find contemporary composers on the general concert programs. The whole musical culture has shifted to a performer-oriented culture, in which the emphasis is on who's playing rather than on what they're playing. We judge one conductor against another based on how well they do Mahler rather than Salonen, because Mahler is familiar and we know how his music should go.

BTW Essa Pekka Salonen is an excellent composer and you (all of you in CMG land) should know how his music goes.

And then there are some composers who in spite of all the cards stacked against them, have a prominent place in our concert life and have an influence on our musical culture, people like John Adams, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. These composers have managed to produce serious works that speak to contemporary culture in compelling terms. They also have no trouble drawing a crowd.

The idea that "Modern composers have largely joined a coterie of subsidization and have effectively become 'high priests murmuring amongst themselves'" is several decades out of date (especially the subsidization part). It's frustrating to encounter such deeply entrenched misconceptions which still have currency. Listen to what's being written now (not 30 or 40 years ago) and you'll see what I mean.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by Belle » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:25 pm

I don't think my comment is 'several decades out of date'. That would take us back to WW2 and there were very many great composers of that era whom we all love to hear today. They were certainly not creatures of the university system. And you say the culture has changed to a performer-oriented one. The culture has and will continue to change; that's what happened when composers stopped being servants and the public concert was introduced. Now we have the electronic age. On and on it goes. But some things remain the same: 'the emphasis on who is playing, not what is played'. Enter Franz Liszt. That gave us the performer/composer. But that wasn't new either; enter Mozart and Beethoven.

And those contemporary composers you mention are all well known, recognized and accepted. It is not about them that I make my comments but those whose obscure offerings, when heard, mostly constitute aversion therapy for audiences. And not everything composed can be regarded as worthy of posterity.

And thanks for the lecture; I have listened, in Vienna for that matter, to contemporary works which those audiences have graciously heard and applauded. But, to my knowledge, most of those have never heard again. And the Berliner Philharmoniker has its contemporary composers which it supports; from what I've heard of these, most are forgettable.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:56 pm

Belle wrote:
I don't think my comment is 'several decades out of date'. That would take us back to WW2 and there were very many great composers of that era whom we all love to hear today.
Indeed, though there were plenty at the time who said that modern music was all noise and not worth listening to. That is why it's important to keep your ears open and not dismiss all modern music. Thank you for making my point.
Belle wrote:And those contemporary composers you mention are all well known, recognized and accepted. It is not about them that I make my comments...[/qoute]
(But you didn't say that. You just said "Modern composers are just high priests murmuring among themselves")
But the fact is, there are other composers out there just as worthy of attention as the ones I mentioned, but you're never going to know about them because "modern composers are just high priests murmuring among themselves".

Belle wrote: Enter Franz Liszt. That gave us the performer/composer. But that wasn't new either; enter Mozart and Beethoven.
They played mainly their own compositions. Kissin doesn't. Yuja Wang doesn't. Big difference.
Belle wrote: I have listened, in Vienna for that matter, to contemporary works which those audiences have graciously heard and applauded. But, to my knowledge, most of those have never heard again. And the Berliner Philharmoniker has its contemporary composers which it supports; from what I've heard of these, most are forgettable.
Look elsewhere.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:58 pm

Help, I've fallen into post-editing Hell, and I can't get up!
Last edited by diegobueno on Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:59 pm

You don't really need to read this one again, either.
Last edited by diegobueno on Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:59 pm

Edit
Sorry for making a total mess out of my attempt to extricate myself from my nested quotes.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by Belle » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:22 pm

Read Walker's 3 volume biography of Liszt and you'll see that he performed many other works besides his own. He was a generous champion of Beethoven and Schumann. Brahms didn't only play his own works. See Swafford. And Pierre Boulez conducted the work of other composers. You have to blame the audiences who were, after all, only listening out for the performer and not the work!!

Nice trick of legerdemain trying to contort yourself out of your argument against 'murmuring'. That started after WW2 and got bigger in the 50s and 60s, continuing to the present - so it's hardly SEVERAL decades 'out of date'. It's true there are probably less 'high priests' than their used to be (and I think we can all be grateful about that), but the point remains. Otherwise, where do most of these composers of new music draw their living in not teaching and performing in educational institutions?

And yes, I should put aside the performances of the world's two top orchestras to look deeper into the music of more obscure contemporaries and try and find gold there. Having an extensive CD collection and written library here at home I already have enough to occupy me in just getting through music composed between 1150AD and 1960.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Wed Jan 10, 2018 8:07 pm

Belle, you say I made an argument against "murmuring"? I don't know what you're talking about. And clearly you don't know what I'm talking about.

Now I think you need to learn to count your decades. I said "three or four decades out of date". It's now 2018. Go back three decades and you have 1988, back four decades you have 1978, That's quite a bit later than World War II. So I'm talking about the 70s and 80s, when your statement about modern composers only writing for each other has the most validity. Things open up considerably during the 90s and the first two decades of the 21st century. Nowadays composers are writing in all sorts of interesting and engaging ways. The old dogmatism is gone (except maybe in Vienna; I think they still take Adorno seriously) It's a terribly exciting time for new music, and you'll never know about it because you've still got these blinders on.

Any art that only lives in the past is a dead art. By only listening to music up to 58 years ago (that's how long ago 1960 is) you're contributing to that death. That's what concerns me, because I don't want the art of music to die.
---------
BTW, and this is totally an aside from my argument, when you get to Volume 3 of Walker's biography, Liszt is not concertizing anymore. During his piano virtuoso days (volume 1), he tended to either play his own music, or highly embellished arrangements ("Reminiscences of....") of other people's music. Not that he didn't play Weber or Beethoven, but you just look at his voluminous output of piano music in the 1830s and you can tell he was always in need of fresh repertoire of his own. In volume 2 he's given up playing the piano in public, and he's conducting. I believe a much higher percentage of his conducting repertory was by other composers, so you have that.

Your mention of Boulez is irrelevant to this discussion, since he already belongs to the perfomer-oriented era I talk about. And he limited his repertory to a certain number of composers that interested him, and let guest conductors do the Tchaikovsky warhorses. Also incidentally, Boulez the composer does not much appeal to me, nor do the contemporary composers I'm enthusiastic about and would like you to be enthusiastic about owe much to Boulez' influence. I do admire his conducting though.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by Belle » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:46 pm

Firstly, you did write "several decades" (which I took as 70 years) in your post and with regard to the rest, as usual, I leave it to a third party to decide for him/herself when reading. Naturally I don't want art music to die either, but judging by the size of Asian audiences and performers it has some 'several decades' to go yet. I just wish there was a piece, apart from a few by Arvo Part, that I could say "oh yes, I think that is something special". I think that about the keyboard works of Ligeti, but that's already 'old'!!

And how I'm enjoying those "blinders"!! Vienna Philharmonic or not!! :lol:

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by John F » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:05 am

I believe - no statistics! - that Stravinsky and possibly Shostakovich might have made the top 20 during their lifetimes. No composer since them is likely to have scored over 700 performances worldwide, however popular they may have been in their home countries - Copland in America, Britten in Britain, and so on. One of Bachtrack's graphis shows something like this.

Also, Belle has a good point: what symphony orchestras, string quartets, solo pianists, Lieder singers, choruses, etc. are included in Bachtrack's sample, and how representative are they? They don't say.

I didn't post this because I thought it was definitive but for what it's worth and as a conversation piece. And it certainly started a conversation!
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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:07 am

This may be slightly irrelevant, but there used to be a site called Opus One which covered performances of all sorts all around the world. I discovered it when I lived in Germany. I could have done an overnight in Berlin or Vienna multiple times in choo-choo train comfort (it was the best paying job I ever had), but never did. OK, put me up against a wall and vote among yourselves for the firing squad.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:59 am

Belle wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:46 pm
I just wish there was a piece, apart from a few by Arvo Part, that I could say "oh yes, I think that is something special". I think that about the keyboard works of Ligeti, but that's already 'old'!!
It's a start.* And Ligeti was writing his Etudes for piano (Of his works, these are my favorites) up until 2001. So you're more current than you think.

* I have to confess that the only reason I responded to this was to make a silly pun like "Part is a start", but then I realized I'd have to say “Pärt is a stärt”, and I thought "well, maybe not".

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:24 am

John F wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:27 pm
An outfit called Bachtrack tabulates about 32,000 "events" a year, concerts only (not opera)
Very interesting charts and stats-I wonder if similar data is available anywhere for operas? Len

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by John F » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:30 am

When I worked at Central Opera Service, we compiled statistics on opera companies and repertoire in the US every year. The most-performed opera, year after year, was Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," mainly by amateur groups. If any American organization still does this, it would be OPERAmerica.
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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:53 am

John F wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:30 am
When I worked at Central Opera Service, we compiled statistics on opera companies and repertoire in the US every year. The most-performed opera, year after year, was Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," mainly by amateur groups. If any American organization still does this, it would be OPERAmerica.
Thanks-and woe is me-I`ve never seen that opera. Len :(

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by maestrob » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:13 am

They played mainly their own compositions. Kissin doesn't. Yuja Wang doesn't. Big difference.
For that matter, neither did Rachmaninoff! He recorded and played lots of repertoire that was not his own music.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by diegobueno » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:42 am

maestrob wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:13 am
They played mainly their own compositions. Kissin doesn't. Yuja Wang doesn't. Big difference.
For that matter, neither did Rachmaninoff! He recorded and played lots of repertoire that was not his own music.
This statement is relevant only if one can trivialize my point down to a matter of "earlier in music history performers only played their own music, then at some point that all suddenly changed and performers only played music by dead people." History is rarely that cut and dried. The transition from a new-music oriented culture to a performer-oriented culture was slow, uneven, and inconsistent. Rachmaninoff's career as a concert pianist took off in the west just at the moment when the culture was shifting to performer-oriented one. In Russia, he composed, he played the piano and he even conducted, but once he left Russia he had to rely on his performing to make a living, and he only completed 6 works between 1917 and his death in 1943. So the culture shifted and he shifted with it.

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:16 pm

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:53 am
John F wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 9:30 am
When I worked at Central Opera Service, we compiled statistics on opera companies and repertoire in the US every year. The most-performed opera, year after year, was Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," mainly by amateur groups. If any American organization still does this, it would be OPERAmerica.
Thanks-and woe is me-I`ve never seen that opera. Len :(
I've posted it and about it here multiple times. There's no particular reason you'd want to see a live version, but in many ways it is a remarkable work. Just to start with, the composer was Italian who never lost his accent but wrote his own perfect English libretto. Thomas Schippers conducted the first, broadcast, performance, when he was only 21, and he happened to be one of Menotti's lovers. Chet Allen, who played the original Amahl, had a very unhappy life crippled by depression and died by his own hands in his 40s. To his great credit, Menotti stayed in touch with him throughout the years and did everything he reasonably could to help. Amahl is still an ideal introduction for young people into the world of classical music, and it is a pity that it is no longer broadcast annually as it used to be. Apologies that much of this is repetitious of previous posts.


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by Belle » Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:42 pm

diegobueno wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:59 am
Belle wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:46 pm
I just wish there was a piece, apart from a few by Arvo Part, that I could say "oh yes, I think that is something special". I think that about the keyboard works of Ligeti, but that's already 'old'!!
It's a start.* And Ligeti was writing his Etudes for piano (Of his works, these are my favorites) up until 2001. So you're more current than you think.

* I have to confess that the only reason I responded to this was to make a silly pun like "Part is a start", but then I realized I'd have to say “Pärt is a stärt”, and I thought "well, maybe not".
I was being facetious when I said "it's already old"!!!

(For some reason most of the links which are being posted here are just blank spaces to me; I'm not able to watch any of them!)

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by lennygoran » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:31 pm

John B, thanks for the link-I'll have to watch it sometime when we're back home. Len

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Re: The most-performed composers

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:20 am

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:31 pm
John B, thanks for the link-I'll have to watch it sometime when we're back home. Len
As you wish or do not. Many people here would consider it very ordinary, but even though I could not have been more than eight when I first heard it on LP (with the original cast), its best moments still send a chill up my spine.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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