Dec 9, 2015
by RICKY O'BANNON

War horses of the orchestral repertoire are welcome in any season calendar, and while they dominated the list of most-performed works this season, there were a few interesting wrinkles.

It’s hard to say much of the top repertoire this season is unexpected, but when comparing to the list from last year (which did feature a smaller sampling of orchestras), it’s clear that there is a lot of turnover. For example, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which charted at number two in 2014-2015 was tied at 27th this season in total performances and number of performing orchestras.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony moved from number three to number 40 by those same measurements, which actually makes it only the ninth-most-performed piece by Beethoven this season.

Gustav Holst’s The Planets will be an often-performed piece this season — and it would be even higher if family concerts were included — but it is also the only work by the English composer to be performed by the 89 included orchestras. Ravel cracked the top 10, but it was for his Piano Concerto in G Major and not the ever-popular Boléro, which came in outside the top 50 making Boléro the third-most-performed work by the composer behind Daphnis et Chloé.

It’s worth noting that the infographic excludes Handel’s Messiah — which is the runaway-most-performed work with 38 orchestras performing it in 99 concerts — because the piece is scheduled more for holiday reasons instead of as an artistic programming choice.

One of the big drivers for top repertoire in an orchestra season is often which works in-demand soloists might decide to perform in any given year. For example pianist Jeremy Denk will perform Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto with four orchestras a total of 13 times, and violinist Midori will perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major with three orchestras in nine concerts.

Most Performed Infographic

Methodology

  • Data was collected in August of 2015. Concert listings as well as orchestra group designations might have changed since then but were accurate as of that date.
  • The orchestras included were chosen as the 89 largest symphony orchestras in the U.S. as of August 2015 with membership in the League of American Orchestras.
  • Orchestras included are Alabama, Albany, Allentown, Arkansas, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boise, Boston, Buffalo, Charleston, Cape, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Columbus, Dallas, Dayton, Delaware, Des Moines, Detroit, Eugene, Florida, Fort Wayne, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Harrisburg, Hartford, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kalamazoo, Kansas City, Knoxville, Louisiana, Louisville, Los Angeles, Madison, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Mobile, Monterey, Naples, Nashville, National (DC), New Haven, New Jersey, New West, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma City, Oakland, Omaha, Orchestra Iowa, Oregon, Orlando, Pacific, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Quad City, Reno, Rhode Island, Richmond, Rochester, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seattle, Spokane, Springfield (MA), St. Louis, Toledo, Tucson, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wichita, Winston-Salem, Youngstown.
  • The programs and repertoire included are from the 2015-2016 season as listed on each orchestra website and brochures prior to the start of the season.
  • Calculations for the initial findings and infographic are weighed by the number of times a piece of music will be performed in concert.
  • Concerts data was collected from include subscription classical concerts, classical specials and new music series. Gala concerts, touring, holiday concerts, chambers series, pops and family concerts are excluded.
  • While technically touring, the Cleveland Orchestra’s concerts in Miami are included in the main classical programs as its performances in Miami are an annual part of its season.
  • To be included in any of the categories, concerts must use musicians from the listed orchestra.
  • Composer nationalities are based on information from the New Grove Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians as accessed through Oxford Music Online. When no entry exists for a living composer, nationality information comes from the best available biographical information usually from the composer’s website.
  • Composition date is based on the best available scholarship of the year in which a piece was completed.
  • Later revisions are not included in the composition date unless a concert program specifically denotes a different version of the original piece. For example, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite was completed in 1910, some orchestras might specify they are performing the 1919 or 1945 versions, which is included in the composition date for those entries.
  • While composition date is based on the best known date of completion of a piece, for works premiered during the 2015-2016 season, the composition date reflects the premiere date.
  • In most cases, composition date information comes from the International Music Score Library Project / Petrucci Music Library.