Extreme Silliness- The 20 Top Orchestras… As conducted by….

I knew as soon as I saw the Gramophone list of the “world’s 20 best orchestras” that, in spite of my better judgement, I would eventually be compelled to say… something? It’s a great list, and I love Gramophone because they love Vftp

Why against my better judgement? Well, crazy as it sounds, I do have an ambition to conduct all of those orchestras, and I’d hate to make my long-awaited “____________ Philharmonic” debut only to have the concertmaster welcome me at the first rehearsal by saying “so, you were the one who thought we were over-rated in 2008????”

Here’s the list, for those of you who haven’t seen it-

High notes

1 Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

2 Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

3 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

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

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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8 comments on “Extreme Silliness- The 20 Top Orchestras… As conducted by….”

  1. Kenneth Woods

    “I think there were certainly other bands in London that deserved a look, but that Noseda guy is doing great stuff in Manchester with BBC Philharmonic.”

    I was trying very carefully to avoid saying which London bands should be added to the list, as I don’t want to leave one out and be blacklisted. Let’s just agree that there are a number of other orchestras in London besides the LSO that deserve to be on the list!

    NQHO would certainly deserve consideration on musical merit, no doubt, but they’re so underfunded right now that I don’t think they can generate enough body of work in the current year to compete. Hopefully we’ll see that change in the coming years.

  2. ComposerBastard

    Lemme understand this…because they dont have funding they aren’t considered worthy of being considered for the list? Sound a bit specious to me – along the lines of civil rights for orchestras. I thought this was a list of quality, and not funding? If so, perhaps LSO or Czech should be at the top since they make the most money via film scores and the like?

    Perhaps if lists were more aligned for quality, orchestra like the NQHO might be able to use that placement to get the funding they deserve.


  3. Erik K

    The better question is what would be the top 20 conductor/orchestra pairings throughout history? Assuming Furtwangler and Berlin PO hold the top spot, who would be #2?

  4. ComposerBastard

    – How about 20 Top Most Undervalued Orchestras, and using a sort button, Overvalued Orchestra?

    – How about a relative score or graph? e.g. What’s the difference between #1 and #2 – is it a close distance or a very large one?

  5. Kenneth Woods


    I’m on it, but you’ll need to put your own list together for the comments section (which will annoyingly probably be better than mine)…

    CB- sadly, all these orchestras can move 10 places on the basis of who conducts them. Five years ago, the orchestra I might have labeled the most over-rated in the US is probably the one I would say is in the top 3 in the world…. The orchestra didn’t get better, they just got a chance to work with a maestro who let them play at their best.

  6. ComposerBastard

    “The orchestra didn’t get better, they just got a chance to work with a maestro who let them play at their best.”

    Well then, it’s easy. Let’s move Oregon East Symphony to the top of the list… =)

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