Who is the most performed living composer?

Who is the most performed living composer?


norman lebrecht

September 11, 2020

A decade ago Slipped Disc produced a list of publisher’s hits which put Karl Jenkins in the #1 spot and Joan Tower in second.

Wonder what’s changed?

Publishers are invited to send us a list of their most performed scores by composers who are still standing.

2010 list here.



  • RobK says:

    I’ve managed to make it to the age of 60 and never having knowingly heard anything of Joan Towers, something I intend to correct asap. Not so sure about Karl Jenkins though!

    • William Safford says:

      I’ve performed works by both composers.

      Re Karl Jenkins, give his “Armed Man: A Mass for Peace” a try. There is a movie that accompanies the work, so it’s good if you can watch it as well as listen to the music. I thoroughly enjoyed performing it.

      I’m actually more familiar with Karl Jenkins’ work with Soft Machine, especially with jazz guitarist Allan Holdsworth, but that’s another story.

      I have not performed it, but I’m partial to “Red Maple” by Joan Tower.

  • Gustavo says:


    • MWnyc says:

      The previous list is actually a list of most-performed **works**. Arvo Pärt may well be the most-performed living classical composer, but it wouldn’t surprise me if none of his works individually racked up enough performances to make the list.

      By the way, Norman might want to make sure he gets figures for David Lang and Julia Wolfe.

  • Gustavo says:

    Baron Lloyd-Webber?

  • MacroV says:

    I was surprised the Adams and Knussen violin concertos were so high on the list, though I assume it was mostly the work of the glorious Leila J. I imagine Scheherezade.2 will be on the new list.

    Corigliano’s Red Violin concerto got that much play? Had no idea.

    • MWnyc says:

      It looks to me like the previous list covers the entire decade 2000-2010 (or possibly 2001-2010). So that would cover all the local premieres of the Red Violin Concerto.

      Also, I’m guessing, from looking at the numbers, that each concert in a four-concert run on an orchestra’s schedule is counted as a separate performance. (Quite rightly, if those are the figures the publishers use for collecting composers’ royalty payments.)

      By the way, I noticed that someone had wondered why Jennifer Higdon wasn’t on the previous list. I believe Norman said he had gotten the figures from major publishers; Jennifer Higdon and her wife self-publish.

  • waltraud says:

    Not to knock this effort, but are there other lists on this topic that are not based on publishing companies’ self-reported numbers?