The World’s Best Orchestras

In 2008, Gramophone created a list of the world's best orchestras. Like any institution, an orchestra will have its ups and downs, and Gramophone's list might therefore be outdated. At this time, however, it is the most credible list available, and if you are new to classical music, you generally won't go wrong listening to recordings by any of the orchestras that Gramophone ranked as the world's best.

The orchestras are listed 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
Notable American Orchestras

The Big Five
Identifying the five orchestras below as America’s “Big Five” was a mainstream idea in the 1950s and 1960s. Although some think
the term has become outdated, many still refer to the following orchestras as the “Big Five.”
According to the Gramophone list of the world's great orchestras, a list of the seven best orchestras in the United States, ranked in order, would include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. This list omits the Philadelphia Orchestra from the original “Big Five” and adds the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra to form America’s “Big Seven.”

Other Notable American Orchestras
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.