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July 30, 2009 reveals most searched items; Alsop beats Pavarotti

This isn't quite up there with Baltimore being named best vacation destination or something like that, but it's kind of cool nonetheless to learn that Baltimore Symphony music director is more popular than Pavarotti and nearly as popular as iconic conductor Herbert von Karajan -- at least among folks searching the online vaults of, an impressive download site recently founded by Pierre R. Schwob for classical music fans.

The company has released lists of the most searched artists, composers, works, etc., over the past month, revealing a few surprises in addition to Alsop's strong showing. I wouldn't pretend this really tells us anything about the classical music public. It's just fun to see what this unscientific sampling of  cyber-consumers is searching for while considering downloads of classical music to computers and assorted hand-held electronic devices.

Here's the ranking of five most-searched artists:


1. Herbert von Karajan

2. Marin Alsop

3. Valdmir Ashkenazy

4. Michael Tilson Thomas

5. Luciano Pavarotti

I'm surprised to see Ashkenazy do so well, given how relatively low the pianist/conductor's profile has been for years.

The list of Most Searched Composers won't startle anyone.

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2. Johann Sebastian Bach

3. Ludwig van Beethoven

4. Frédéric François Chopin

5. George Frideric Handel

The first three positions conform to the traditional holy trinity of classical music, and exactly in the proper order, I'd say. I might have figured Vivaldi would edge out Handel and maybe Brahms do better than Chopin. 

Top Most Popular Time Periods:

1. Baroque

2. Classical

3. Romantic

4. Medieval

5. Contemporary

Again, no big surprise there, but this next list gave me pause.

Top Most Popular Genres:

1. Symphony

2. Concerto

3. Sonata

4. Chamber Music

5. Solo Vocal Music

Odd that opera didn't make the cut. You can attract a crowd for opera a lot easier than you can for a solo voice recital, so I would assume that would hold for download buyers, too.

Top Most Popular Instruments:

1. Piano

2. Violin

3. Organ

4. Flute

5. Cello

Organ music at number 3? Who knew?

The "Top Most Searched Works" contains some of the usual suspects:

1. Handel's Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus

2. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No.14 in C-sharp minor, Op.27, No.2 ('Moonlight')

3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K.467 ('Elvira Madigan')

4. Frédéric François Chopin - Nocturnes [sic] in E-flat, Op.9

5. Johann Sebastian Bach - Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV1041

As for the Chopin, I assume this refers to Op. 9, No. 2, not all three of the Op. 9 Nocturnes (only one is in E-flat, of course). I wonder if people are downloading all of the 'Moonlight' or just the first movement everybody knows.

Finally, the Most Searched Operas.

1. Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro

2. Mozart's Don Giovanni

3. Verdi's La Traviata

4. Wagner's Die Walküre

5. Verdi's Aida

This is quite a surprise to me -- no Puccini in the top 5. Wow. And Walkure over, say, Tristan? Interesting. I wonder what a list after six months or a year would look like.


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:28 AM | | Comments (2)


That's too funny -- Marin beats MTT? Wow! And just a notch below HVK (though I always considered him to be a tad overrated -- too much gloss and not enough muscle in all but a few concert recordings, IMHumO) -- not bad indeed! Now she needs some Mahler recordings to go toe-to-toe with those bad boys!!!

(Ashkenazy's one of my absolute favourites, both with a baton and at the piano [which probably increased his profile, so to speak, being a dual threat] -- I missed him with the NSO last season when they did Sibelius, and he happens to be my favourite Sibelian!!! I haven't heard his new Sibelius symphony cycle yet, but his Decca recordings are my go-to versions. Glad to see him ranking so high, even at this late stage in his career!)

Oh, one more thing: you surely know that the "Walk├╝re" would turn up because of the "Ride," right? "Tristan" is for us connoisseurs, especially that immaculate "Liebestod" -- the "Ride," for all of its clashing and dashing, can't hold a candle to it! ;^)

Right you are. Still, I would have thought all those popular Puccini arias would have been hotter in the search engines.TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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