Last Composer Standing – the results

Last Composer Standing – the results


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2010

With reports in from all the major publishers, here, in descending order, is a list of the most performed new music of the 21st century. I shall offer some analysis in a further post, but the list – as you can see – contains several surprises and it will reorder our priorities as to which composer is making the most waves in the present epoch.

Here is the second tranch of the top twenty:

20 Philip Glass, In the Penal Colony (2000) – 65 performances

19 Kaija Saariaho’s 2000 opera L’Amour de loin – 66

18 Magnus Lindberg Gran Duo (2000) for woodwind and brass, 67.

17 Elliott Carter: Dialogues (2003) for piano and large ensemble, 70.

16 John Corigliano, Red Violin concerto (2003), 71

15 John Adams: The Dharma at Big Sur (2003) for electric violin and orchestra, 72.

14 Jörg Widmann, Hunt Quartet (2003), 74

13 Oliver Knussen violin concerto (2002) 79.

12 Detlev Glanert’s opera, The Three Riddles (2003) 80

11 George Benjamin Dance Figures for Orchestra (2004), 82


Ready now? Here comes the top ten.


10 Detlev Glanert opera Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning (2000) 83

9 Philip Glass, Concerto Fantasy (87)

8 Colin Matthews Pluto (2000), 87

7 Christopher Rouse Rapture (2000) 97

6 Howard Goodall’s Requiem (2008) 102.

5 Nathaniel Stookey, The Composer is Dead (2006), 104

4 Joby Talbot Entity (2008), 110

3 Tan Dun, Crouching Tiger concerto (2000) 139

2 Joan Tower, Made in America (2008), 145

1 Karl Jenkins Requiem (2004) 311


On national grounds alone the results are astonishing. The top ten contains five US citizens (one Chinese born), four British composers and one German. What does that say about the people who are commissioning new music?

The second eleven adds two Finns and a German to the mix, but without changing the general pattern. Italy and France, two of the great sources off western music, are absent. Russia, once the great white hope, is muted.


It may be that composers in those countries are not being properly promoted – and the numbers here are only from the major commercial publishers – and it could bee that some of them are being performed and not properly reported. If that is the case, I will be glad to hear of any discrepancies. However, it does not change the general picture that the mainstream of contemporary music is now dominated by American and British composers – and not necessarily the obvious ones. But of that, more in the next post. 



  • “Once the great white hope, is muted.” – I like that.
    Ironically enough, among today’s NYTimes headlines is : A Kennedy Departs Congress, Ending an Era

  • Norman,
    Thanks, this is a brilliant idea (and I hope it leads to an annual update). This is a great list–I too am shocked by some of the names on here (and NOT on here). I look forward to listening to the music I have not heard (and getting it all in our store!)

  • Hal Sacks says:

    How about Jennifer Higdon and Michael Torke?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    The “production” is huge in Germany, Italy, and France, but mostly of avant garde works that do not go further than the premières.

  • Bass One says:

    Apologies to his fans but every time Karl Jenkins’ music comes on the radio I have to turn it off. Too repetitive. Compose a theme and repeat it ad nauseam.