Exclusive: The world’s most hired music

Exclusive: The world’s most hired music


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2020

Zinfonia claims to be the world’s #1 source for renting copyright scores.

It’s top ten in 2019 were:
1 Arturo Márquez Danzon No. 2 (Peermusic Classical)
2 Modest Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition; arr. [Ravel] (Boosey & Hawkes)
3 Carl Orff Carmina Burana (Schott Music)
4 Aaron Copland Appalachian Spring. Suite [Orchestral Version] (Boosey & Hawkes)
5 Aaron Copland Appalachian Spring. Suite [Chamber Version] (Boosey & Hawkes)
6 Leonard Bernstein West Side Story. Symphonic Dances (Boosey & Hawkes)
7 Béla Bartók Concerto for Orchestra (Boosey & Hawkes)
8 Florence Price Symphony No. 1 in e minor (G. Schirmer)
9 Samuel Barber Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (G. Schirmer)
10 John Rutter Requiem [ensemble version] (Oxford University Press)

More…. up to 100 … here.

Arturo Márquez. Who he?


Zinfonia’s most performed composers in 2019 were:#
1 John Rutter
2 Leonard Bernstein
3 Aaron Copland
4 George Gershwin
5 Ralph Vaughan Williams
6 Mack Wilberg
7 Benjamin Britten
8 Igor Stravinsky
9 Dmitri Shostakovich
10 Richard Strauss



  • Paul says:

    1 John Rutter
    2 Leonard Bernstein
    3 Aaron Copland
    4 George Gershwin
    5 Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Take that: Boulez, Stockhausen, Eötvös, etc !

  • fflambeau says:

    Fascinating choices but does it mean anything since the older (and more performed) musicians like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven would not be under copyright?

  • fflambeau says:

    I am surprised at the omission on this list of contemporary composers like Arvo Pärt, Ludovico Einaudi, Philip Glass, Morton Lauridsen etc.

  • fflambeau says:

    This doesn’t sound right.

    Copyright usually is only for 70 years; Ravel has been dead for 83. Also, most sources say the most performed contemporary is Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass is also up there; neither are in the top 100. Glass has millions of hits on YouTube.

    Plus, some composers handled/marketed their own music (Alan Hovhaness) while the really famous ones like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Handel would long ago have gone out of copyright.

    Sorry, I don’t know Danzon but I find it hard to believe he’s ahead of John Williams, Ludovico Einaudi etc.

    • Mathieu says:

      Re Ravel, you have to take into account the “prorogations de guerre”: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prorogations_de_guerre

      The Bolero’s copyright expired in 2019 only.

    • SVM says:

      A work may be out of copyright but a particular edition or typographical arrangement may still be in copyright. Orchestras require not only a score, but performing parts, and extracting *good* performing parts is a highly skilled and time-consuming activity (important considerations include: correct transpositions; choice of clef and positioning of clef-changes; sensible quantity and distribution of cautionary accidentals; cues and multi-rests; page-turns; readability at a distance in poor lighting; not replicating errors from other sources; formatting of /divisi/ passages; rehearsal figures). The free options (such as the IMSLP) are not always up to the task, and given how expensive orchestral rehearsal time is, it would be a false economy to use parts of inadequate or unreliable quality just to avoid paying hire charges. That said, some parts in hire libraries are atrocious, especially for musical theatre.

      A 3rd option, of course, is to use cheap/free parts and pay someone to go over them very carefully before the rehearsals start. Some conductors, notably Henry Wood (who founded the Promenade concerts in London), take upon themselves the gargantuan task of checking and correcting parts personally. Some orchestras, meanwhile, have a librarian who takes responsibility for such work. However, in too many cases, badly extracted parts waste a lot of rehearsal time and/or impede the performance.

  • fflambeau says:

    This sounds like a Maxwell Smart (“Get Smart”) joke: “Would you believe me if I told you that the music of Arturo Márquez Danzon is the most performed copy music in the world?

    How about if I said it was the Dixie Cups followed by the Pet Shop Boys?

    Would you believe: Bozo the Clown playing jugs?

  • Patrick says:

    For the US audience this is a great “if-you-want-to-sell-tickets-perform-these-works” list.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    No surprise about the Marquez. Very ingenious, infectious and exciting tune. And Mack Wilberg is not as much a composer as he is an arranger: his numerous choral arrangements of Christmas music are enormously popular, especially with Mormon groups – and there are a lot of them.

  • MacroV says:

    Florence Price? Glad she’s getting some attention but I haven’t heard of a single performance of her Symphony #1 so just who is renting it?

    • Robert Holmén says:

      “…so just who is renting it?”

      There are maybe a hundred professional orchestras in the world that you will “hear” about.

      But there are thousands of semi-pro, regional, college, and community orchestras that go unnoticed yet rent music also and may have a reason to program music that is not the usual war-horses.

  • John Nemaric says:

    Arturo Marquez is a prolific Mexican composer born in 1950. More, a lot more, here:

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I too had never heard of Marquez or his Danzon.

    After perusing the numerous Youtubes of it I conclude it is a favorite among youth and community orchestras which would account for more rentals than the professional symphonies.

    Accessible, rhythmic, “new” but won’t run the audience off… that would make for a winner.

  • EricB says:

    Strange : Carl Orff”s Carmina Burana (Schott) appears in 3rd position and 96th…. ????

    • Byrwec Ellison says:

      Happens a bunch on this list. Click on the link, and Carmina No. 3 is the full cantata; No. 96 is just the 4-minute “O Fortuna.”

      Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphosis” is No. 40 (orchestra version) and No. 81 (concert band). Even Marquez’ ubiquitous “Danzon” appears twice: No. 1 (full orchestra) and No. 84 (broken link to nowhere).

  • LewesBird says:

    This just happens to be the most hired music from Zinfonia. It’s not the most hired music in the world. For this to have any meaning, one would need to consider where else one could hire this or other music from. Apparently, relays Slipped Disc, Zinfonia is the no. 1 source of hired sheet music in the world — maybe so with a 20% market share, and there are four other competitors with 15%-19% market share each, who would have their own statistics to show. Get it now?

  • Peter says:

    Nowadays it seems that every second amateur orchestra is programming Danzon No. 2 – it’s a simple-to-play, catchy showpiece – so this isn’t the least bit surprising.

  • Michael Emmerson says:

    Dear Norman, I am really shocked that you would ask “Who he?” of Mexico’s leading composer. As proved by the frequency with which is music is played he is popular on a global basis – and not just because of Danzón No 2 (Mexico’s current National Anthem) but because of the range and the impact his many other compositions. Pacho Flores just premiered his Trumpet Concerto, Ann Akiko Meyers will premier his Violin Concerto this summer and Elena Durán, who premiered his recently completed Flute Concerto will give the UK premier in London next year having already given a dozen performances here in Mexico.

  • A little bit of context for this information. Zinfonia was created in partnership with the music publishing industry to make it easier to locate and order material and includes most of the largest catalogues of performance materials on hire/rent.

    These stats do have a bias to copyright orchestral music because that is the most common music to hire. It specifically does not include music for sale which includes much of the standard repertoire in the public domain along with other big names of our time like John Williams, Ludovico Einaudi and Eric Whitacre. The duplicate entries in the list are different versions of the same piece (for example, the second Carmina Burana is just the O Fortuna excerpt).

    Zinfonia is not the only route to hire, performers can go direct to the publishers or their agents if they want to, but as a snapshot of activity from many tens of thousands of performances from the user-base of almost 50,000 librarians and performers in 129 countries, it is an interesting look at what music is being heard in venues all around the world.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Florence Price Sym no 1 rented more than Petrushka or Pines of Rome? This list is BS.

  • Erica says:

    The video of the premiere of Marquez’s Concierto de Otoño (new trumpet concerto for Pacho Flores) is online now. Worth a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt06z5ZiysQ It had its UK premiere with Flores and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra last week.