Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Top 20 Orchestras in the World

Though I never had any interest in sports as a kid (or an adult), I would follow America's Major League Orchestras and their principal players much the way other kids (and adults) would follow its baseball and football teams and their players, with or without trading cards. So while there's no World Series among orchestras (much less a Super Bowl), when somebody comes out with a ranking for the best orchestras in the country or the world, I'm still curious how things stack up.

While tagging Patty over at OboeInsight, I saw this post from yesterday about the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam having been mentioned in the British music magazine Gramophone as the top of the recently announced “Top 20 Orchestras in the World.” The complete list was posted on a German site, Bavarian Radio On-Line, which I found at ArtsJournal. Here’s the complete list (auf Deutsch):

Die 20 Top-Orchester der Welt [The 20 Top Orchestras of the World]

1. Concertgebouw-Orkest, Amsterdam
2. Berliner Philharmoniker [Berlin]
3. Wiener Philharmoniker [Vienna]
4. London Symphony Orchestra
5. Chicago Symphony Orchestra
6. Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks [Bavarian Radio Sym]
7. Cleveland Orchestra
8. Los Angeles Philharmonic
9. Budapest Festival Orchestra
10. Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden [Dresden State Orch]
11. Boston Symphony Orchestra
12. New York Philharmonic
13. San Francisco Symphony
14. Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
15. Russian National Orchestra
16. Leningrad Phillharmonic
17. Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
18. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
19. Saito Kinen Symphony Orchestra [in Japan]
20. Tschechische [Czech] Philharmonie

Note the American Orchestras’ placement in the Top 20:

5. Chicago
7. Cleveland
8. Los Angeles
11. Boston
12. New York Phil
13. San Francisco
18. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

For decades, the Top 5 American Orchestras were (in no particular order) the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony followed by the Chicago Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra.

So who’s missing from this most recent list? Yeah! where’s the Philadelphia Orchestra?! What happened?

Well, for the past several years they’ve been grumbling about playing under their conductor Christoph von Eschenbach so maybe the deterioration from the Golden Age of Ormandy and Muti has been noticed in the wider world? The last few times I heard them playing familiar repertoire under Eschenbach, things had happened that you don’t expect to hear coming from an orchestra the caliber of the legendary Philadelphia Orchestra (in fact, most of them I didn’t expect to hear from the Harrisburg Symphony), so it makes you wonder...

Now, also look how high the Cleveland Orchestra placed – and this, after some of the complaints I’ve read and heard about this orchestra’s problems with its conductor Franz Welser-Möst (and not just the Plain Dealer’s critic, Donald Rosenberg which I blogged about here and here).

I just find that interesting.

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