Women Making Inroads In Contemporary Classical Music According To Stats

Lithograph on chine collé depicting Palestrina, circa 1858 Print made by: Jean Aubert; Published by Goupil (Public domain)

As classical music returned to the stage in 2022, a report suggests that the new normal includes a greater focus on gender equality and modern composers. The information comes from Bachtrack.com, a European-based website focusing on classical music, including a large and ongoing database of live music listings.

In 2022, the site published listings for 27,124 distinct events, which breaks down into approximately 14,000 concerts, 9,000 opera performances, and almost 4,000 dance performances. In 2019, pre-pandemic, the total figure was 34,648, evidence that the new normal isn’t quite up to normal levels yet.

While the data is admittedly limited in scope, the numbers nonetheless allowed the organization to make observations that they call statistically significant.

Canadians on the list

The listings only cover the places where the website’s listings are relevant, including Europe, the UK, and the US. Notably, it does not include Canada; however, a few Canadians managed to make the list all the same.

The top ten busiest conductors

  1. Andris Nelsons
  2. Yannick Nézet–Séguin 🇨🇦
  3. Paavo Järvi
  4. Klaus Mäkelä
  5. Sir Simon Rattle
  6. Daniel Harding
  7. Manfred Honeck
  8. Andrés Orozco–Estrada
  9. Iván Fischer
  10. Gustavo Dudamel

In the area of dance, Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite 🇨🇦 is the only woman who appears in the Top 20 living choreographers list. Another 19 women appear in the top 100 list.

There were 12 women among the top 100 conductors, two with Canadian connections:

  • Elim Chan #29
  • Karina Canellakis #35
  • Nathalie Stutzmann #38
  • Mirga Gražinytė–Tyla #51
  • Marin Alsop #54
  • Dalia Stasevska #61
  • Xian Zhang #65
  • Gemma New #65 (🇨🇦 currently with the Hamilton Philharmonic)
  • Simone Young #75
  • Joana Mallwitz #79
  • Kristiina Poska #83
  • Barbara Hannigan #92 🇨🇦

The top 10 pianists:

  1. Yuja Wang
  2. Daniil Trifonov
  3. Yefim Bronfman
  4. Víkingur Ólafsson
  5. Sir András Schiff
  6. Emanuel Ax
  7. Beatrice Rana
  8. Igor Levit
  9. Seong–Jin Cho
  10. Jan Lisiecki 🇨🇦

The top 10 violinists:

  1. Patricia Kopatchinskaja
  2. Renaud Capuçon
  3. Leonidas Kavakos
  4. Isabelle Faust
  5. Vilde Frang
  6. Hilary Hahn
  7. Augustin Hadelich
  8. Janine Jansen
  9. Nicola Benedetti
  10. James Ehnes 🇨🇦

General findings

Some of the lists look familiar to classical concertgoers the world over.

Top 10 Concert Composers

  1. Mozart, W.A.
  2. Beethoven, Ludwig van
  3. Bach, Johann Sebastian
  4. Brahms, Johannes
  5. Schubert, Franz
  6. Schumann, Robert
  7. Ravel, Maurice
  8. Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich
  9. Strauss, Richard
  10. Chopin, Fryderyk

Modern music, including 20th century composers, who seem to be finally getting their full due, and living composers, are making bigger inroads into live concert programming.

  • Most of the places in the survey are programming 20th-century music more regularly than ever before;
    19 post-1918 compositions appear on the list of top 100 most performed works, representing a bigger slice of the pie than in any other year;
  • Among other 20th-century composers, there are five works by Shostakovich in the top 100 in 2022.

Living composers — and greater gender parity

It’s among the ranks of living composers that women are making progress.

  • The data includes 106 living composers who had more than eight performances during the year;
  • Arvo Pärt is on top of the living composer list, with 182 performances recorded;
  • The top 106 list includes 27 Americans, 24 composers from the UK, eight French and five German composers.

Top ten contemporary composers:

  1. Arvo Pärt
  2. John Williams
  3. John Adams
  4. Thomas Adès
  5. Philip Glass
  6. Jörg Widmann
  7. Sofia Gubaidulina
  8. Anna Clyne
  9. Wolfgang Rihm
  10. Sir James MacMillan

The top 20 contemporary composers include nine women:

  • Sofia Gubaidulina #7
  • Anna Clyne #8
  • Kaija Saariaho #11
  • Olga Neuwirth #12
  • Unsuk Chin #14
  • Cecilia McDowall #15
  • Anna Thorvaldsdottir #16
  • Missy Mazzoli #19
  • Errollyn Wallen #20

Of note: in 2013, not a single woman figured in the top 100 list of contemporary composers, and in 2019 there was only one.

In the area of conducting, women are also showing up on the listings in much greater numbers

  • Of the top 100 busiest conductors, 12 are women;
  • That compares with just one in 2013.

Of note: as we’ve all suspected, the average age of working conductors has dropped to 46 in 2022. Back in 2010, it was 61.

  • Women make up more than half the list of the busiest violin soloists, including six of ten;
  • When it comes to pianists, however, that number drops to two.

Philip Glass was the busiest operatic composer in 2022, with productions of Akhnaten, Orphée, Les Enfants Terribles and Einstein on the Beach at The Met in New York, Teatro Real in Madrid, in France, Belgium and at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie respectively. British composer Jonathan Dove’s opera Flight was performed 17 times in the UK and USA, making it the most performed work of the year.

The disclaimer: The Bachtrack Annual Statistics are based on events listed by Bachtrack only. While Bachtrack is the largest classical music listings site, our listings are not exhaustive, and necessarily represent a sample of the overall picture.

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