Movie maestro John Williams named 2023’s most-performed living composer

9 January 2024, 15:45

John Williams conducts ‘Harry Potter’ with LA Philharmonic at Hogwarts Castle

By Siena Linton

Film music legend John Williams has reclaimed the top spot as the world’s most performed living composer.

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John Williams has been crowned the top living composer in 2023, according to newly released survey results.

The legendary film composer was knocked from the top spot in 2022 by Estonian minimalist Arvo Pärt, but regained it in the last year according to Bachtrack’s annual classical music statistics round-up.

2023 saw landmark anniversaries for many of John Williams’ beloved scores, from Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park at 30, to Saving Private Ryan at 25, as well as the release of the fifth instalment of the Indiana Jones film franchise, The Dial of Destiny.

It was also the year that Williams, 91, made history as the oldest person to receive a nomination for an Academy Award.

Williams’ victory comes shortly after he revealed that he may have more melodies to come, rowing back on previous rumours that the fifth Indiana Jones score could be his last.

Read more: Steven Spielberg confirms a documentary on film music legend John Williams is coming

John Williams receives the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, as Steven Spielberg applauds.
John Williams receives the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, as Steven Spielberg applauds. Picture: Getty

Bachtrack’s 2023 results mark 10 years of the survey, which has been carried out every year since 2013. The report is based on the performances listed on its website last year, which numbered over 30,000.

Over the last decade, there was a slight increase in the percentage of works performed by living composers, from six percent in the first survey to 14 percent in 2023.

Of those living composers, four in the top 10 are women: Sofia Gubaidulina, Caroline Shaw, Unsuk Chin, and Anna Clyne.

However, only seven women feature in the full top 20, which also includes Jesse Montgomery, Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, and Kaija Saariaho, who died in 2023. This number is down from nine in 2022.

Only 22 of the top 200 most-performed composers of all time are women, compared to two in 200 as recorded in the first survey in 2013.

Storming Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 finale at the Royal Albert Hall | Classic FM

Rachmaninov received a boost in performances, in his 150th anniversary year. His Symphonic Dances was the most performed composition of all classical works in 2023, with his Piano Concerto No.3 taking second spot and the Piano Concerto No.2 in fourth position.

The top five most programmed composers in the survey were Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Schubert.

Performances of Mahler’s works have almost doubled in the 10 years of the survey, and Verdi was named the most performed opera composer of the year.

As for performers, star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was the most in-demand cellist, and one of the busiest concert soloists of 2023. Violin-cello sibling duo Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, and pianists Kirill Gerstein and Daniil Trifonov, were highly in demand, alongside the Berlin Philharmonic, which was the ‘busiest orchestra’ of the year.

Read Bachtrack’s full survey here.