Top 20 Orchestras in the World - Gramophone Magazine

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So I only noticed recently that the well-respected magazine : Gramophone, had published its list of the world's top 20 orchestras.

    As a regular London concert-goer I wondered what people thought of the choices and the validity of the concept....?

    Oh...and here's the list :

    1. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam

    2. Berlin Philharmonic

    3. Vienna Philharmonic

    4. London Symphony Orchestra

    5. Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    6. Bavarian Radio Symphony

    7. Cleveland Orchestra

    8. Los Angeles Philharmonic

    9. Budapest Festival Orchestra

    10. Dresden Staatskapelle

    11. Boston Symphony Orchestra

    12. New York Philharmonic

    13. San Francisco Symphony

    14. Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra

    15. Russian National Orchestra

    16. Leningrad Philharmonic

    17. Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

    18. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

    19. Saito Kinen Symphony Orchestra

    20. Czech Philharmonic

    Personally 2-5 are my favourites - but it's a good list!
  2. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    This is such a subjective field that I am surprised that the Gramophone would entertain such a contest.

    I know people that would put Chicago first, I would put Vienna first, the Staatskapelle Berlin does not even appear on the list in spite of being one of the most incredibly musical ensembles today etc...

    Nothing personal Bruce, just voicing a little bit of frustration.:)
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I know - it was sparked by an article I read in the Guardian Newspaper today - where they mentioned a below-par performance from the Concertgebouw!! ;)

    I am lucky in having seen all of the top 5 quite recently in London but I wouldn't put them at No 1!
  4. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    I can't believe that Philadelphia didn't make the list???

    I can agree with the top ten, but not necessarily in that order.
  5. I recently heard that this list was compiled based on surveys turned in from people who happened to be at concerts (aka the general public) so I would take the list with a grain of salt...I mean the Met Opera Orchestra is #18? They're probably the hardest working orchestra right now and in my opinion easily one of the top #5 orchestras in the world, regardless of whether or not they regularly play works from the symphonic repertoire.

    And where is Philly?
  6. Any attempt at a ranking of any sort of institution (may it be an orchestra, university, etc.) should be taken with a grain of salt. The methodologies vary from ranking to ranking, and they are not always clear to begin with so it's usually hard to tell how seriously one should take this kind of a list (even though the spectrum of seriousness with which one should regard these lists, in my view, goes from "unreliable" to "completely stupid").

    Of course some orchestras are better than others, but all the orchestras on that list (as well as many that were excluded) are fantastic and objectively deserve to be regarded as number 1.
  7. Peter Ferretti

    Peter Ferretti

    Jun 7, 2005
    Interesting that they omit who is leading the orchestra. The BSO is a completely different orchestra with Levine than with anyone else conducting, LA with Esa Pekka with be a completely different orchestra than they will be with Dudamel.

    The Mahler 5 concert I attended with NY and Dudamel was probably the most energetic concert I have ever seen. With other conductors, the Phil has put me to sleep. In all honesty, I have enoyed certain conservatory concerts more than the few I have seen that orchestra play.

    Chicago's recordings with Solti are incredible. The one performance of that orchestra I have seen recently didn't blow me away. There are a couple other examples like that.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well the premise of Gramophone Magazine is to provide information to people who are listening to this kind of music on CD and going to concerts.

    There is a vast repertoire out there and many versions of most of that, as well as the point that in any week in London, I can choose from maybe 5 or 6 top rank orchestral concerts.. :eyebrow:

    I think the Gramophone audience are people who are very well-informed, without being necessarily performers or having any kind of academic knowledge of the subject.

    I find Gramophone invaluable, in that it means I don't have to wade through 50 sub-standard recordings/performances, when deciding to buy CDs....but I'm not sure about the value of it telling me which orchestras to go and see....:meh:

    Although I can see why there may be a desire for this...?
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I saw the Chicago in the Proms last September and while there were a few glaring errors early on - the finale of Mahler's 6 was very intense and "electric" !! :)

    They were conducted by Haitink though - may have had something to do with it....;)
  10. mattgray


    Nov 16, 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    I'm just happy that the LA Phil is starting to get the recognition which they deserve. Not to mention that the bass section is a section of pure poundage.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Are you saying that they might be a bit ...overweight...:eyebrow:

  12. Casalini


    Nov 23, 2008
    The survey should be taken with a grain of salt, but unfortunately, the impact for many orchestras as a result of this list could be significant. Where is Philly? Well, I guess we should be asking Eschenbach that question, because under Sawallisch, they would have definitely been on that list. I don't think this list will change any of our opinions. However, it will effect fund raising for some of these groups. Roughly 2/3's of an orchestra's budget comes from donors, and the rest is made up from ticket sales. In a case like Philadelphia, which has long been considered a Top 5, not making the top 20 list will change the mind of a hand full of people that make substantial gifts to the orchestra. Imagine a corporate sponsor thinking, ''Well, this orchestra I give a hundred thousand dollars to every year went from Top 5 to not even making the Top 20 list...and the economy being how it is, I'm going to keep my hundred thou, thank you..." Unfortunately, I think this list will have more of a negative impact than a positive one. What are the positive impacts of this list?

    Vienna's good, but too many of their principal winds play sharp, (clarinet especially). They deserve to be on the list. I also have no explanation for how BSO shut out Philly like that. I won't elaborate, as I have relations to both, but I disagree.
  13. MDEbass


    Dec 15, 2008
    Yeah....I would have to agree with why Philadelphia is not even at least on the list. Royal Concertgebouw is awesome, so that doesn't surprise me. If you want to hear the BEST recording of Mahler 5 check out the one done by the Concertgebouw. Its sooo good.
  14. As far as great Mahler 5 recordings go, the CSO's with Solti is pretty awesome.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I really like the Berlin with Simon Rattle as a great modern version of Mahler's 5th!

    Gramophone ranks it in the top 5 ...


    Symphony No 5.

    Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Simon Rattle

    EMI New CD 5 57385-2 (68 minutes : DDD)

    ...and suggest the following...

    Selected Comparisons
    NYPO, Walter (12/57R) (SONY) SMK64451
    VPO, Bernstein (8/88) (DG) 423 608-2GH
    BPO, Abbado (12/93) (DG) 437 789-2GH
    Concertgebouw, Haitink (11/94) (PHIL) 442 050-2PB10
    Columbia SO, Walter (9/62R) (SONY) SM2K64452
    New Philh, Barbirolli (3/99) (EMI) 566910-2
    New Philh, Klemperer (7/67R) (EMI) 567036-2
  16. I heard that this list was compiled based on reviews by professional reviewers, not simply surveys done by audiences. I, too, was surprised that Boston was so low down on the list, and was also surprised that the LA Phil was higher than the San Francisco Symphony, but I guess who really cares? They're all fantastic orchestras and I'm sure it must be extremely difficult to really nitpick between them.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm not sure - but generally Gramophone's "concept" is based on well-respected professional reviewers, who consider all sorts of evidence - e.g books and academic studies - but also bring a more up-to-date take than you can get from books, by regular concert-going,appraisal of the latest CDs/recordings and on-line discussion etc. etc.

    Gramophone is seen as independent and learned - a body of knowledge that is in the best British traditions of public service....:eyebrow:
  18. Brian, I agree with you. Although your post obviously refers to an older Top 20 list, I noticed the same thing in the current Gramaphone Top Twenty. A couple of things that were glaring indications of the subjectivity of this poll is the fact that it includes such "qualifications" as community outreach and recording deals.

    I'll be honest, I am not a musican, but as the granddaughter of an organist during the silent film era, I not only heard classical music on a daily basis as a child, but took a couple of music courses in college.

    I would have thought the measure of an orchestra would not be based upon how much community outreach or how many recording contracts they have. While it is true that the Philadephians are only recently engaged in community outreach, and the level of recording deals has fallen off considerably, I fail to see how that disqualifies them or any other orchestra from being included among the Top 20.

    Furthermore, I got the impression that this rating was based on public opinion so to speak. That alone makes the poll suspect. To be a completely objective poll, it would seem to me that it would be conducted at least among music critics; perhaps even conductors or musicans themselves.

    Another post suggested that this poll be taken with a grain of salt, I would suggest the whole box of salt.
  19. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    My first thought was: do symphony orchestras only exist in the northern hemisphere, and only in Europe/UK and the US?
  20. No, there are tons in South America (Venezuela has amazing orchestras) and in Austrailia and in every region of the world.