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Top Five Composer Anniversaries in 2011

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2010 is in the bag, and so are celebrations for the year’s two big birthday boys, Schumann and Chopin, as each one’s 200th ushered plenty of his music into concert halls around the globe. As 2011 gears up, another group of birthdays and anniversaries are receiving their due on stages, with one composer hanging around for a second straight year. Here are the top five anniversaries for the coming 12 months:

1. The biggest boldface name on the list of 2011 anniversaries is Franz Liszt, who would have turned 200 years old in October. Expect several concerts this season that try to bring about a greater appreciation for Liszt as a composer as well as a virtuoso. The pianist Stephen Hough, who has incorporated Liszt’s Concerto No. 1 into several upcoming performances, recently eulogized the Hungarian composer in The Guardian.

    2. Last year marked Samuel Barber’s 100th; this year marks the centenary for his longtime companion, Gian Carlo Menotti. Though his best-known opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, gets play around the holidays, his other works are finding stages. The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. will present his opera, The Medium. Closer to home, Dicapo Opera will stage a new production of Menotti’s 1954 opera, The Saint of Bleecker Street.

        3. If it seemed like orchestras were just celebrating Gustav Mahler, it’s because they were. Last year was the 150th anniversary of his birth, and this year is the 100th anniversary of his untimely death. Marking both occasions, Valery Gergiev completes a cycle of Mahler’s symphonies that started last November with the Mariinsky Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in February with the London Symphony Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall.

        4. Finally we come to an anniversary where the composer can participate. Steve Reich will undoubtedly be piling up air miles this year as ensembles around the world celebrate his 75th birthday. A five-day Reich festival in Stockholm kicks off the festivities, which continue through London, Barcelona, Paris and of course New York.

        5. As renaissance music gains in popularity, so does the interest Tomas Luis de Victoria, Spain’s great 16th and early 17th century composer, who died 400 years ago. The Tallis Scholars and Blue Heron (both of whom found themselves in Alex Ross’s most recent column in The New Yorker) will pay homage to de Victoria’s death with concerts this spring.