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The World's Best Orchestras

A Look at 20 Leading Symphony Orchestras


11. Boston Symphony Orchestra

The third "Big 5" member on the list is the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Founded in 1881, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has spent most of its life in the Boston Symphony Hall, which was modeled after Vienna's Musikverein. The Boston Symphony Orchestra was the first orchestra to perform live on radio (NBC, 1926). At the time of this listing, renowned conducter, James Levine lead the orchestra.

12. New York Philharmonic

The fourth "Big 5" on the list, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest U.S. orchestra since its founding in 1842. With over a dozen Grammy awards under its belt, the orchestra was lead by Lorin Maazel from 2002-2009. Currently, the NY Philharmonic is lead by Alan Gilbert.

13. San Francisco Symphony

Established in 1911, the San Francisco Symphony, known for its remarkable Mahler recordings, has been lead by Michael Tilson Thomas since 1995.

14. Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra

The Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra is one of Russia's oldest companies. Currently, the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra is lead by artistic and general director, Valery Gergiev.

15. Russian National Orchestra

Another young orchestra, The Russian National Orchestra was founded in 1990. With over 75 recordings and over a dozen awards, it has quickly gained popularity and world recognition.

16. Leningrad Philharmonic

The oldest Russian orchestra, the Leningrad Philharmonic, formally known as the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded in 1882. Under the baton of Yuri Temirkanov, the orchestra tours extensively.

17. Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Tracing back to 1741, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra has been officially performing in the Gewandhaus concert hall since 1781. With an impressive history of past conductors including Felix Mendelssohn, the orchestra has been performing fantastic classical music for over 250 years.

18. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

Under the leadership of James Levine since 1991, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra performs nearly every day of the week during opera season. The Met, known for its superb opera stars, needs to have an equally impressive roster of talented instrumentalists.

19. Saito Kinen Orchestra

Founded in 1984, by famed conductors, Seiji Ozawa and Kazuyoshi Akiyama, The Saito Kinen Orchestra was organized to perform a series of special concerts commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hideo Saito's death. Professor Saito, a teacher to both Ozawa and Akiyama, helped found one of Japan's leading schools of music, the Toho Gakuen School.

20. Czech Philharmonic

Founded in 1896, Gustav Mahler conducted the premier of his 7th symphony with the Czech Philharmonic in 1908. Since its creation, the orchestra has won a variety of awards, as well as earning nominations including a Grammy in 2005.

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