Which composers are most frequently performed?

by Eleanor Peterson, Special to MPR
April 8, 2014

Have you ever wondered what composers and works are most frequently performed? Since 2000, the League of American Orchestras — publisher of Symphony Magazine — has collaborated with Fine Arts Software to keep tabs on what's being programmed in American symphonic concert halls.

The study is conducted by analyzing data submitted voluntarily by League of American Orchestras member orchestras — such as the Minnesota Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic. Researchers in the committee study the composers being performed, the guest soloists, individual pieces performed, premiere performances of individual pieces, American pieces performed, and the performances of American pieces composed within the last 25 years.

By means of this research, the League of American Orchestras hopes to highlight and encourage the programming of works written by contemporary composers, female composers, composers from beyond Western Europe, and composers who write for formats that are outside the Western performance tradition. The League hopes to encourage orchestras of all sizes to program these composers not to replace the titans of the repertoire, but rather to program alongside them.

The League has established awards for orchestras that aim for adventurous programming. Another program sponsored by the League is the ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming. Awards include emphasis on foreign tours, educational programming, innovative programming, and strongest dedication to new American music.

So who is being performed? What is being performed? And who is performing? Here are data from the 2010-11 concert season, the most season for which data have been published. The reason for the lag time, according to Rachelle Schlosser, Director of Media Relations for the League of American Orchestras, is that the information is entered manually and is then reviewed. An archive of results from 2000 to 2010 can be seen here.

Top ten composers performed in American symphonic concert halls, 2010-11
1. Beethoven
2. Mozart
3. Tchaikovsky
4. Brahms
5. Ravel
6. Dvořak
7. Sibelius
8. Prokofiev
9. Stravinsky
10. Rachmaninoff

Top ten pieces performed in American symphonic concert halls, 2010-11
1. Brahms, Symphony No. 1
2. Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition
3. Tchaikovsky, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra
4. Beethoven, Concerto No. 4 for Piano and Orchestra
5. Beethoven, Symphony No. 7
6. Liszt, Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra
7. Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique
8. Sibelius, Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra
9. Tchaikovsky, Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra
10. Brahms, Symphony No. 4

Top ten guest soloists in American symphonic concert halls, 2010-11
1. Yefim Bronfman (piano)
2. Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)
3. Peter Serkin (piano)
4. Saint Louis Symphony Chorus
5. Karita Mattila (soprano)
6. Gil Shaham (violin)
7. Emanuel Ax (piano)
8. Pinchas Zuckerman (conductor; viola; violin)
9. Amy Kaiser (conductor)
10. Dawn Upshaw (soprano)

Top ten living American composers most frequently programmed in American symphonic concert halls, 2010-11
1. John Adams
2. Philip Glass
3. Joan Tower
4. Michael Daugherty
5. Steven Mackey
6. Aaron Jay Kernis
7. Christopher Theofanidis
8. Jennifer Higdon
9. Michael Gandolfi
10. Adam Schoenberg

Eleanor Peterson is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; in May, she will earn a Master's of Library and Information Science and a Master's of Music History and Music Literature. She is a horn player; her favorite composers include Mendelssohn, Saint-Saens, and Rimsky-Korsakov.


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