Correction to This Article
· A Dec. 1 Style article on Gramophone magazine's listing of the top 20 orchestras in the world repeated the magazine's incorrect name for the orchestra that placed 16th. It is the St. Petersburg Philharmonic; it is no longer called the Leningrad Philharmonic.

To Hear the Best Orchestra, Critics Say, Head to Amsterdam

Bernard Haitink, left, leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, tops in the United States and No. 5 on the list. Mariss Jansons conducts the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, rated as the world's finest collective.
Bernard Haitink, left, leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, tops in the United States and No. 5 on the list. Mariss Jansons conducts the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, rated as the world's finest collective. (Todd Rosenberg Photography)
Monday, December 1, 2008

The Berlin Philharmonic has been toppled. Cleveland no longer reigns supreme. And the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the best orchestra in the United States. Gramophone magazine has polled international critics to create a list of the top 20 orchestras around the globe, and like all such lists, it will offer fuel for discussion for some time to come.

Those of us who think the conductor Mariss Jansons is possibly the best in the world are not alone. The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, which Jansons has led since 2002, leads the list, ahead of Berlin and Vienna.

As for the United States: Chicago is fifth, and Cleveland, long praised as our country's flagship, a mere No. 7. The Philadelphia Orchestra doesn't make the cut.

One does not expect the NSO or the Baltimore Symphony, for all of their virtues, in such august company. But Washington orchestra watchers should note that the Budapest Festival Orchestra, founded by the NSO's current principal conductor, Iván Fischer, gets the nod with a respectable ninth place. However, the NSO's incoming music director, Christoph Eschenbach, comes up short: Not only is Philadelphia absent, but so is the Orchestre de Paris, where he is music director through 2010.

-- Anne Midgette

The list:

1. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam

2. Berlin Philharmonic

3. Vienna Philharmonic

4. London Symphony Orchestra

5. Chicago Symphony Orchestra


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