The World’s Best Orchestras

In 2008, Gramophone created a list of the world's best orchestras. Like any institution, an orchestra has its ups and downs, and a list that is more than a decade old might seem outdated. At the time, however, Gramophone has provided us with the most credible list available for someone whose knowledge of this topic is limited to internet searches. If you are new to classical music, you won't go wrong listening to recordings by any of the orchestras that Gramophone ranked as the world's best back in 2008.

Gramophone listed the orchestras in order with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw ranked as the best orchestra in the world.
  1. Royal Concertgebouw
  2. Berlin Philharmonic
  3. Vienna Philharmonic
  4. London Symphony Orchestra
  5. Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  6. Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
  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. St. Petersburg Philharmonic
  17. Leipzig Gewandhaus
  18. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
  19. Saito Kinen Orchestra
  20. Czech Philharmonic
American Orchestras

The Big Five
During the 1950s and 1960s the five orchestras listed below were identified as America’s “Big Five.” Although some think
the term has become outdated, many still refer to the following orchestras as the “Big Five.”
According to Gramophone's list of the world's great orchestras, the seven best orchestras in the United States, ranked in order, are the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. This would eliminate the Philadelphia Orchestra from the original “Big Five” and add the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra to form America’s “Big Seven.” Again, Gramophone's ranking is over a decade old, and an orchestra can go through many changes over that much time.

Notable American Orchestras (not including the "Big Five")
My apologies for the “notable” orchestras I have overlooked. Send me a message via Twitter (@NMJim), and I’ll add other orchestras to the list.