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Top Five 2013 Anniversaries That Aren't for Verdi or Wagner

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A pair of operatic lions dominates the classical music celebrations in 2013. Both Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi turn 200 this year and already the two are grabbing headlines: controversy erupted in Milan recently over La Scala’s decision to open with Wagner’s Lohengrin rather than an opera by the homegrown composer and local hero.

Lest these two figures overshadow all else in 2013, we’ve assembled our top five classical music anniversaries that don’t include these masters.

1. Benjamin Britten Centennial

Arguably England’s most important composer of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten celebrates his centennial this year. To commemorate the occasion, the Britten Pears Foundation has launched the site Britten100.org, keeping track of the concerts and events associated with the composer. The site also has been posting video clips of noted figures such as fellow composer John Adams and the filmmaker Wes Anderson (who incorporated A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom) eulogizing the figure.

2. The Rite of Spring Centennial

As orchestras around the world prepare for the 100th anniversary of the Rite of Spring—it infamously set Paris aflame on May 29, 1913—this totem of modernism has been showing up on a number of concert schedules. Orchestras around the world, including the New York and LA Philharmonics kicked off their seasons with Stravinsky’s masterpiece. An academic conference was devoted to the work, and Carnegie Hall will devote a Discovery Day to considering its significance.

3. Witold Lutoslawski Centennial

On January 25, Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski would have turned 100. That day is also the deadline for submissions in a composition competition commemorating the centennial. Two of the composer’s most ardent champions, Steven Stucky and Esa-Pekka Salonen, celebrated his works with the LA Philharmonic. Closer to home, violinist Jennifer Koh will perform Lutoslawski’s Chain 2 with the New York Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel this month.

4. Royal Philharmonic Society Centennial

Founded in January 1813, the Royal Philharmonic Society was established by a number of London-based musicians to promote the performance of instrumental music and its appreciation among the public. Most famously, this resulted in the commissions of works, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. To commemorate its legacy, and perpetuate its commitment towards new music, the Society has commissioned works by 16 composers, including Harrison Birtwistle, Wolfgang Rihm and Magnus Lindberg, to name a few.

5. Tower, Bolcom and Harbison at 75

This summer, attendees of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival will get to fete three composers, celebrating their 75th birthdays at the same time during a concert honoring Joan Tower, John Harbison and William Bolcom. All three will return to the annual June series, presented in Southfield, Michigan. Adding to the party, it’s the 20th anniversary of the festival itself.

Weigh in: What are you looking forward to in 2013? Please leave your comments below.