Most performed Americans

The League of American Orchestras has released their always-interesting list of the most-performed American composers. The rankings are only for orchestral performances, which makes them especially eye-opening when you compare these numbers to, say, band numbers. These numbers are for 2008-2009. Here are the top 5 living American composers, and their total number of American orchestral performances:
1: John Adams — 52 performances
2: Jennifer Higdon — 49 performances
3: Michael Daugherty — 34 performances
4: John Corigliano — 32 performances
5: John Williams — 31 performances

(You can see a more complete list here.)

I’ve written before about the whole “band vs. orchestra” thing, but here, comparing the numbers is kind of shocking.  During the 2008-2009 season, John Adams had 52 performances by orchestras in the United States.  From his entire catalog.  This year, Asphalt Cocktail has 70 scheduled performances.  That’s one band piece.  Point: band.

Also of note is the Boosey & Hawkes list of their most-performed pieces of the past decade.  Michael Daugherty’s piece for timpani and symphonic band (and also arranged for orchestra) “Raise the Roof” is number 8 on Boosey’s decade list, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of those 67 performances are from bands, not orchestras.  At number 2, it’s Christopher Rouse’s orchestra piece, “Rapture.”  Since 2000, it has had 97 performances.

At number one, though — and this is only considering works published by Boosey & Hawkes — is Karl Jenkins Requiem.  How many performances in the past decade?  311.  311!  I feel pretty out-of-touch for not even knowing the piece existed.

The lesson here?  If you’re a composer and you want to have at least the potential for a large number of performances, write for band.  But if you want to really get a shitload of performances, write a requiem!

Apparently everybody loves a requiem.


Scott says

My favorite setting is by Monty Python.

Pie jesu domine
Dona eis requiem....*WHACK!*

J. Aaron Stanley says

I first heard of Karl Jenkins just a few weeks ago, when I noticed Pasadena Presbyterian was performing his Stabat Mater. So I went out of curiosity.

His style is definitely influenced by popular music which explains his popularity. I found he had an impeccable lyrical sense. The music was very beautiful. The lyrics were well treated.

The one weakness with the piece was its repetitiveness. He used many literal repeats with no differences I could discern. There were many times I was aching for an added countermelody or an additional part (such as violins suddenly leaping into a fiery passage in the stratosphere) to liven things up on the repeats. But no such luck. I was also a bit disappointed with the ending, and felt it was anti-climatic.

However, you've got to hand it to him. He's managed to write music people actually want to hear--as the Boosey & Hawkes list demonstrates.

Andrew Hackard says

I'm intrigued by Philip Glass, with 10, and Peter Schickele, one of several people tied with 6. Is that just his serious work, or does it include P.D.Q. Bach?

Stewart Harrison says

Jenkins also gave us 'Adiemus' - which in the UK was ubiquitous about a decade ago. Remember 'ubiquitous' is from the Latin for 'populist drivel'.

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