Last composer standing – who is really the most performed?main
The discussion, which spread into several languages, prompted soul searching and stock-taking at music publishers. One of the leaders, Boosey & Hawkes, has just sent me a list of works of the past decade that achieved the greatest number of performances.
The top ten are not what I expected. To avoid giving you a quick fix, I’ll start from the foot up.
At number 10 is Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater with 57 performances. I once described Jenkins as ‘a newspaper composer’ in the sense that his music is ephemeral, hot today, late tomorrow. It looks like he’s proving me wrong.
At 9, with 59 performances is James MacMillan with O Bone Jesu (2002) for chorus.
At 8, the countdown quickening on 62 performances, it’s Michael Daugherty: Raise the Roof (2003) for timpani and symphonic band (or orchestra).
At 7, Magnus Lindberg has been doing well at the Los Angeles and New York philharmonic orchestras with 67 hearings of Gran Duo (2000) for woodwind and brass.
At 6, it’s Elliott Carter: Dialogues (2003) for piano and large ensemble, played 70 times.
Into the top five now with John Adams: The Dharma at Big Sur (2003) for electric violin and orchestra, 72 concerts.
At 4, a big surprise, 80 performances of Detlev Glanert’s opera, The Three Riddles (2003).
Number 3, an even bigger shock, Glanert’s comic opera Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning (2000), seen 83 times. Who would have included Henze’s star pupil as a contender?
At 2, it’s Christopher Rouse, American hero, with Rapture for orchestra (2000), 97 plays.
And the winner is, you’d never have guessed, in the red corner, the Welsh dragon Karl Jenkins with a breath-taking 311 performances of his 2004 Requiem. I owe Mr Jenkins a retraction: his music may still be played when the last newspaper has bitten the dust.
Let’s digest those stats. John Adams, who is Boosey’s top earner, is getting many more performances of earlier and more trenchant works than the slippery Dharma. But where in the list, I wonder, are the prolific Peter Maxwell Davies and the ever-interesting Harrison Birtwistle, both stars of the Boosey stable? Where, above all, is Steve Reich?
It appears from that Reich’s Cello Counterpoint almost made the cut, as did two further works of Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls and the opera Doctor Atomic, along with two concertos by Lindberg and a collection by my Melbourne cobber, Brett Dean.
These are, of course, the results of just one big publisher. Nevertheless, they are indicative of a trend towards the simplistic satisfactions offered by the former ad-man Jenkins, as distinct from the more serious contemplations of post-modern genre leaders.
If other publishers care to send their results to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will attempt to compile a list of all-time hits of the Noughties. Chester, Universal, Faber, Peters – it’s time to come clean – you’ve got til the weekend. Ades, Glass and Rihm musy be in the running.
Anyone else you think needs to stand up and be counted?