Who are the world’s best orchestras?
It’s far easier said than done to choose just ten of the world’s top orchestras. The following orchestras are unrivalled in their brilliance in terms of sound quality, technical aptitude, and sheer musicality.
However, what sets these orchestras apart is their attitude and approach to the repertoire, as well as their musical direction and essential performance principles.
Here’s our list of the top ten orchestras in the world, at the risk of employing every superlative in the lexicon.
#10 – National Symphony Orchestra
This is the United States’ official orchestra. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located in Washington, D.C. Hans Kindler, the orchestra’s first conductor, was paid only $40 per week.
Antal Dorati, the orchestra’s music director in the 1970s, was instrumental in bringing the orchestra to where it is now. He helped them gain creative fame, commissions, and critically acclaimed albums.
The National Symphony Orchestra has taken part in the Kennedy Center’s American Residencies outreach program. This is when the complete orchestra travels to another state to perform as well as offer workshops and lectures for schoolchildren.
Every year, the National Symphony Orchestra performs at the National Memorial Day Concert and A Capitol Fourth, a PBS Independence Day Concert Special. They also attend presidential inaugurations to perform. Each year, about 175 concerts are performed by the 100 performers. In 1987, First Lady Nancy Reagan conducted the National Symphony Orchestra.
The National Symphony Orchestra also hosts the Summer Music Institute. Each summer, they provide scholarships to promising, top-level musicians from all around the world to study with the NSO in the nation’s capital for a few weeks.
#9 – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
The Atlanta Youth Symphony was the original name of this orchestra, which is situated in Atlanta, Georgia. Every year, they put on nearly 200 shows. They’re also well-known for their contributions to education, special events, community engagement, and fundraising. Their recordings have earned widespread acclaim, and they have won a total of 26 Grammy awards as of 2006.
The Atlantic Symphony Orchestra performed at Atlanta’s Centennial Summer Olympics in 1996. The Orchestra has performed three times in Berlin and has been on two European tours. It is one of the six or seven major orchestras in the country in terms of budget.
The ASO has a staff of 65 people and a total of 100 musicians. They support the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, a group of 120 young musicians from Atlanta. Because they are picked through a competitive process, each musician is exceptionally gifted. Even the youngest musicians practice with ASO’s conductors and trainers.
Classical series, pop concerts, family and children’s programs, free summer park concerts, and performances around Georgia and the surrounding states are just a few of their offerings. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, which has 200 members, and the ASO Chamber Chorus, which has between 40 and 60 members, frequently accompany them.
#8 – New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic, which was created in 1842, claims to be the country’s oldest orchestra. Its most well-known collaboration is with Leonard Bernstein, which lasted 47 years and resulted in 1,244 performances.
Since Bernstein’s death in 1990, the orchestra has performed Bernstein’s Candide overture without a conductor as a poignant memorial.
The New York Philharmonic was run as a cooperative society for the first 25 years. This indicates that the musicians were in charge of their own affairs. They have approximately 2,000 recordings and have done their record-breaking 15,000th concert.
#7 – Boston Symphony Orchestra
Since 1917, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has been recording and performing up to 250 concerts per year. They also go on national and international tours on a regular basis. They also produce some of the world’s best flute players.
BSO has performed on a number of soundtrack albums, including the Schindler’s List soundtrack. In 1974, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, a television comedy about a fictional BSO musician, premiered.
The “Big Five” also included the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). This internationally acclaimed orchestra is America’s second-oldest musical institution. They have been noted for their interpretations of contemporary music as well as their versions of French repertoire.
The Boston Pops Orchestra was founded in 1885 as a spin-off from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It is made up of BSO members, with the exception of the primary, first-chair players. They perform more popular classic songs as well as lighter music.
#6 – Philadelphia Orchestra
Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Orchestra is another member of the nation’s “Big Five.” They are housed in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and play over 130 concerts each year.
The orchestra is known for a plethora of first endeavours. It was the first orchestra to make electrical recordings in 1925. It was also the first orchestra to appear on a television broadcast on CBS in 1948. And the first to make a commercially sponsored radio broadcast, which was on NBC in 1929.
Additionally, They were also the first American orchestra to digitally record all of Beethoven’s symphonies and broadcast a live symphony concert over the internet in 1997.
#5 – Cleveland Orchestra
The Cleveland Orchestra, situated in Ohio, is one of the “Big Five” orchestras in the United States. The Severance Hall is where it is kept.
The Orchestra normally has more than 100 members each season, and just six of the present members are from Ohio, despite the fact that they all live in the state permanently. Members hail from a variety of nations, including China, Israel, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Romania, and others.
Cleveland is a family-friendly city that offers free admission to children under the age of 18 at many of its events. Individual concerts for children, such as the PNC Musical Rainbows Show and the American Greetings Family Concert, are also available.
#4 – Berlin Philharmonic
The Berlin Philharmonic, often known as Die Berliner Philharmoniker, is a German orchestra that ranks among the best in the world.
They’ve won a slew of accolades over the years, including many Classical Brit Awards, Grammy Awards, Gramophone Awards, the ECHO, the ICMA, and Opera International Magazine’s Platinum Stamp.
The orchestra stated in 2008 that they will be constructing a Digital Concert Hall in which to perform.
The digital hall allows spectators from all around the world to see the Philharmonic’s performances, which have featured many of the world’s top violinists throughout history.
#3 – London Symphony Orchestra
The London Symphony Ensemble is another internationally recognized orchestra (LSO). The orchestra was founded in 1904 by members of Henry Woods’ Queen’s Hall Orchestra after the regulation was enacted requiring players to devote their time and talents only to the orchestra.
The LSO was founded as a cooperative in which the musicians decided how much they would be paid, what and when they would play, and who may join the orchestra. As a result, it was one of the greatest orchestras to join at the beginning.
The orchestra is the most recorded orchestra in the world, having appeared on over 200 film soundtrack albums. Some of the best movie soundtracks of all time, such as the Star Wars film series, Superman: The Movie, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, are among them.
#2 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), another of America’s “Big Five,” is well-known around the world. The Chicago Symphony Marathon, The Symphonython, and the Radiothon are all fundraising marathons held by the orchestra each year.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is particularly well-known for its annual appearances at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois.
The Civic Orchestra of Chicago was created in 1919. This was the first training orchestra in the United States to be linked with a major symphony orchestra.
They were employed to acquire pre-professional players and severely train them till they attained the position of CSO players. The CSO is now the only major symphony orchestra in the United States to support a training orchestra.
The Latino Alliance, the Overture Council, the League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, the African American Network, the Women Board, and the Governing Members are all voluntary organizations that the CSO belongs to.
They’ve won 62 Grammy Awards, according to Wikipedia. The CSO launched their own record label, CSO Resound, in 2007. They composed music for the films Lincoln (2012) and Fantasia (2000), both of which were released in 2012.
#1 – Vienna Philharmonic
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is made up entirely of musicians of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.
They must play there for at least three years before submitting a rigorous application to join the Vienna Philharmonic, a prestigious orchestra with a long and famous history.
The Musikverein in Vienna, Austria, is home to this ancient orchestra. Seeing them perform here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A weekday performance has a six-year waitlist, and a weekend performance has a 13-year waitlist.
They have a distinct sound because their instruments are tuned at a different pitch than most other prominent orchestras. The trombone, timpani, double bass, and rotary-valve trumpet, for example, are slightly different from regular instruments.
The orchestra’s instruments are exclusively made in Vienna, giving it a distinctive sound that distinguishes it from other orchestras around the world.
In 2006, they were named Europe’s best orchestra by a number of respected publications. Gramophone Magazine placed them third in the world in 2008.
Runners Up: Who’s Almost a Best Orchestra in the World?
There’s no fun in stopping at the top 10 when we can easily add more to the list. They all deserve mention and might be in your own top 10, and who made us the judges, you know? There are plenty of top-tier orchestras out there.
Look for your favourite here or below in the honourable mentions.
Honorable Mentions for the Best Orchestras in the World
Even with the items indicated above, we are unable to complete our list.
There are just too many more outstanding orchestras that you should be aware of or that need to be included.
They all have a chance to rise up the ranks over time, so here they are.
- Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Founded in 1949 by Eugen Jochum, et al.)
- San Francisco Symphony (Founded in 1911 led by Henry Hadley)
- Minnesota Orchestra (Founded in 1903 by Emil Oberhoffer)
- St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Founded in 1880 by Joseph Otten)
- The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Founded in 1986 by Mathew Truscott, et al.)
- The Aurora Orchestra (Founded in 2005 by Nicholas Collon and Robin Ticciati)