It was easy to pick the 10 best orchestras around the globe. While we all can agree on who should be included in the top 10, it is the order in which they rank that could lead to some interesting conversations.
This level is where the truth of the matter is that all orchestras are flawless. It becomes about their contributions, their longevity, and their popularity. The Top Bands of All Time is a similar argument.
It’s difficult to keep to ten in any ranking. We expanded our search into runners up and honorable mentions. Keep scrolling if your favorite is not listed. Let’s now jump to the list with the top orchestras worldwide…
#10 – National Symphony Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1930 W/HANS KINDLER
This is the official orchestra for the United States. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts houses the orchestra, which is based in Washington D.C. Hans Kindler was the orchestra’s first conductor. He received a weekly salary of just $40. Antal Dorati, the orchestra’s music director, helped to build it up in the 1970s. He helped them achieve artistic recognition, commissioning, as well as acclaimed recordings.
The Kennedy Center’s American Residencies outreach program has included the National Symphony Orchestra (or NSO). The entire orchestra is invited to travel to another state, where they perform and also hold workshops and presentations for schools.
NSO also manages the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute. The scholarships are available to top-quality musicians from all over the world who wish to study at the NSO in Washington DC for a few weeks each year.
Trivia Facts Each year, the National Symphony Orchestra performs at the National Memorial Day Concert as well as the PBS Independence Day Concert Special (called A Capitol Fourth). They also perform at the presidential inaugurations. They are composed of 100 musicians and perform approximately 175 concerts annually. The NSO was founded by Nancy Reagan, the First Lady of America in 1987.
#9 – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1945 by HENRY SOPKIN
The orchestra is based in Atlanta, Georgia. It was originally known as the Atlanta Youth Symphony. They give over 200 performances every year. They are well-known for their involvement with education, special events and community engagement. They are highly acclaimed and have won 26 Grammy Awards since 2006.
The ASO has 100 musicians and 65 staff members. The ASO sponsors the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, a group that includes 120 young musicians from high schools. Each musician is highly skilled and selected competitively. Even the youngest musicians practice under the same coaches and conductors as ASO.
They perform in a variety of venues, including classical series, pop concerts and family and children programs. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus is composed of 200 people and the ASO Chamber Chorus which is comprised between 40-60 people.
Trivia Facts The Centennial Summer Olympics was held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. The Orchestra has performed in Berlin three times and has already been on two European tours. It is also one of the largest orchestras in terms of budget.
#8 – New York Philharmonic
FOUNDED: 1842 by URELI COORELLI HILL
New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO), one of America’s most renowned orchestras, is located in David Geffen Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. It is also one of America’s oldest musical institutions. Their first concert was held on December 7, 1842. 63 musicians performed to 600 people in the Apollo Rooms.
The New York Philharmonic was run cooperatively for the first 25 years. The musicians were responsible for managing themselves. They have now performed their record-breaking 15,000th show and have almost 2,000 recordings.
Trivia Facts The NYPO was invited to perform in Pyongyang by the North Korean government in 2008. This was America’s first major visit to the country in over a decade. They have been awarded 19 Grammy Awards. They reach approximately 50 million people each season. The NYPO is also part of the “Big Five,” which includes the five top orchestras in America.
#7 – Boston Symphony Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1881 by HENRY LEE LEE HIGGINSON
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), was also part of the “Big Five” and is America’s second-oldest musical institution. They are well-known for their interpretations of French music and contemporary music.
The Boston Pops Orchestra was established in 1885 as an offshoot from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It is composed of BSO members and non-first-chair players. They prefer lighter music to more classic songs.
Since 1917, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has recorded over 250 concerts each year. They regularly travel internationally and on national tours. They are also home to some of the best flutists in the world.
Trivia Facts – BSO performed on numerous soundtrack recordings, including Schindler’s List’s. A television comedy, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, was created about a fictional BSO musician.
#6 – Philadelphia Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1900 by FRITZ SCHEEL
The Philadelphia Orchestra, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is another member of the “Big Five” in the United States. They are located in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. They perform over 130 concerts annually.
It is well-known for its many first efforts. It was also the first to record electrical music in 1925. It was also the first to appear on a CBS television broadcast in 1948. It was also the first commercially sponsored radio broadcast that was made on NBC in 1929.
They were also the first American orchestra in 1997 to digitally record all Beethoven symphonies and broadcast a live concert via the internet.
Trivia Facts The Philadelphia Orchestra performs at symphony halls and in classrooms, community centres, hospitals, schools, online, and on the radio. They are well-known for their innovative and technological advances in the symphony field. In 2016, they launched the HEAR initiative, which focuses on health, education, access to orchestra performances, research in Philadelphia communities.
#5 – Cleveland Orchestra
FOUNDED 1918 BY ADELLA PENTISS HUGHES
The Severance Hall is home to the Cleveland Orchestra, which is based in Ohio. The Orchestra has more than 100 members every season. Only six of the current members are from Ohio, but they all live permanently in Ohio. The Orchestra has members from around the globe, including China, Israel and Japan as well as Korea, Taiwan, Taiwan, Romania and many other countries.
Cleveland is family-friendly. Many performances offer free tickets for children under 18. There are even performances geared specifically towards children such as the PNC Musical Rainbows Show or the American Greetings Family Concert.
Trivia Facts In October 2020, the New York Times dubbed the Cleveland Orchestra “America’s Finest Orchestra”. Gramophone Magazine ranked it 7th in the country in 2012. It is non-profit and has a lower operating budget than all other orchestras of its size. They are active all around the globe. Cleveland is well-known for its orchestra and other music.
#4 – Berlin Philharmonic
FOUNDED: 1882 by FRUHERE BILESSCHE KAPELLE
The Berlin Philharmonic (or Die Berliner Philharmoniker) is one of the most renowned orchestras in the world and is located in Germany. Over the years they have received a variety of awards, including the multiple Classical Brit Awards and Grammy Awards, Gramophone Awards and the ECHO, as well as the ICMA and the Platinum Stamp from Opera International Magazine.
The orchestra announced in 2008 that they were building a Digital Concert Hall to host their performances. The Philharmonic’s digital hall allows viewers all over the globe to view their performances. They have featured many of the greatest violinists of all times.
Trivia Facts Their first concert hall was destroyed in 1944 by British bombers during WWII. Their second concert hall was built in 1963 and caught fire in 2008. UNICEF named them Goodwill Ambassadors in November 2007.
#3 – London Symphony Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1904 BY ADOLF BORSDORF, ET AL.
The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) is another well-known orchestra. The LSO was founded in 1904 by Henry Woods’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra members. A rule stipulated that players had to give their orchestra all their services.
LSO was founded as a cooperative by the members. They decided how much, when, and what they would play and who could join the orchestra. It was one of the most enjoyable orchestras to be part of.
The orchestra is the most-recorded orchestra in the world and has recorded over 200 soundtracks for movies. These include the greatest movie soundtracks like Star Wars movie, Superman The Movie and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Trivia Facts The LSO is the first British orchestra to perform overseas. When they were due to sail on the Titanic from New York, almost all of the orchestra was gone. They were able to change their booking at the last moment. They had been hesitant to allow women to join LSOs for many years, fearing that it would make them look bad.
#2 – Chicago Symphony Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1891 by THEODORE THOMAS
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is another one of America’s “Big Five”. It is a respected international organization. The Chicago Symphony Marathon, The Symphonython and the Radiothon are all fundraisers that the orchestra organizes each year. CSO is also well-known for its annual performances at Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival.
The Civic Orchestra of Chicago was established in 1919. This was the first major American symphony orchestra to associate with a training orchestra. They were used to recruit and train pre-professional players until they became CSO players. The CSO is the US’s only major symphony organization that sponsors a training orchestra.
The CSO is a member of many volunteer groups such as the Overture Council and the Latino Alliance.
Trivia Facts They have won 62 Grammy Awards. CSO Resound was their own label that was established in 2007. They recorded music to the films Lincoln (2012) and Fantasia 2000.
#1 – Vienna Philharmonic
FOUNDED: 1842 by FRANZ LACHNER
All members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are selected from the Vienna State Opera orchestra. They must have been playing there for at least three years before they can apply for a lengthy application to be admitted to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, an internationally renowned orchestra with a rich history.
The Musikverein in Vienna is home to this historic orchestra. It is highly desirable to see them perform here. A weekday performance is available with a six-year wait list, and weekend performances require a thirteen-year wait list.
Because they tune their instruments at an unusual pitch, their sound is distinctive. Their instruments include the trombone, the timpani and double bass. They also have the rotary-valve trumpet and the trombone.
Trivia Facts All instruments used by the musicians are made in Vienna. This gives them a unique sound that is not found in other orchestras around the world. They were named Europe’s best orchestra in 2006 by several reputable publications. They were ranked third by Gramophone Magazine in 2008
Runners up: Who’s almost the best orchestra in the world?
It’s not fun to stop at the top 10, when there are easily 4 more. All of them deserve to be mentioned and could be included in your top 10. And who are the judges? There are many top-tier orchestras. Find your favorite orchestra here, or in the honorable men.
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1888 by WILLEM KES
This dutch orchestra is located in the Netherlands at Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw (translated as concert hall). Due to its exceptional acoustics, this hall holds the record for the highest number of world records. The Concertgebouw has two halls: the Main Hall, which can hold 1974 people, and the Recital Hall that holds only 150.
Willem Mengelberg, the first conductor of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, held that position for 50 years. The orchestra performed many of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies as well as those by George Szell and Pierre Monteux. The orchestra has had seven chief conductors so far.
RCO Live is their own label that issues their own CD recordings. They have done over 1,000 recordings to date, which has helped cement their incredible reputation.
Trivia Facts In 1988 Queen Beatrix declared the symphony “Royal.” More than 740,000 people visit the Concertgebouw every year. It is well-known for its performance of many Gustav Mahler symphonies. Their six chief conductors are the smallest of all orchestras.
FOUNDED: 1548 by MAURICE, ELECTOR of SAXONY
The Staatskapelle Dresden, Germany is not only one the best orchestras in the world, but it is also one of Germany’s oldest. It has been around since 1500. The Semperoper, Dresden, Saxony is where the orchestra is located. They perform approximately 250 operas and ballets every season. They also perform around 50 performances each year at the opera house, as well as other locations.
The Staatskapelle is a community supporter of musical education and heritage. They are the official patron orchestra for the Mettingpoint Music Messiaen. They were also instrumental in the founding of the International Shostakovich Festival. This festival is dedicated to Dimitri Shostakovich, a Russian composer and pianist from Russia. They were the only orchestra to receive the European Prize for the Preservation of the World’s Musical Heritage.
Trivia Facts Richard Strauss and the Staatskapelle were closely associated for more than 60 years. They performed nine of Strauss’ operas. They frequently travel around the globe to perform. Their current conductor, Christian Thielemann is their conductor. They are the Salzburg Easter Festival’s resident orchestra.
Los Angeles Philharmonic
FOUNDED: 1919 by WILLIAM ANDREWS CLARK JR.
The LA Phil performs at both the Walt Disney Concert Hall in California and the Hollywood Bowl. They are well-known for their forward-thinking, innovative, and adventurous symphony pursuits. They are determined to change the direction of modern orchestras. They frequently play throughout Southern California, including San Diego and Palm Springs, Costa Mesa and Santa Barbra.
Gustavo Dudamel is the current director and conductor of the LA Phil. Gustavo Dudamel is an ingenious conductor who strives to spread the importance of music education and advocacy. He hosted a radio show called at Home with Gustavo, where he shared personal stories and musical selections to bring people together. It was broadcast in English and Spanish internationally.
Many of the top piano players in the world collaborate with this orchestra, but they don’t often get the recognition that they deserve.
Trivia Facts They offer a fellowship to early-career symphonic performers from underrepresented groups. Their annual budget stands at $125 million as of 2019. They were the musical performers in Battlestar Galactica’s pilot television premiere. They also performed the music for BioShock 2’s soundtrack and Final Fantasy’s game.
Budapest Festival Orchestra
FOUNDED: 1983 by IVAN FISCHER and ZOLTAN KOCSIS
Budapest is the home of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Its members are selected from Hungary’s most talented young musicians. They want to make Hungary an international orchestral name and give Budapest the international recognition that it deserves.
Each year, the orchestra organizes a festival called Bridging Europe that focuses on one nation’s culture. They also give away two weeks of free concerts each year to churches, nursing homes, and S.O.S. They also offer children’s villages and synagogues. They frequently perform for children. They are part of the Choose Your Instrument program for elementary-aged children, and the Cocoa Concert Series series for young children.
The Budapest Festival Orchestra was named the 9th most outstanding orchestra worldwide, beating the New York Philharmonics Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. They have been nominated for Grammys and Gramophone Awards. New York Magazine named The Marriage of Figaro by the BFO the best classical music event of 2013.
Trivia Facts: The conductor often invites young, internationally-acclaimed singers and musicians to perform with the Budapest Festival Orchestra. They regularly appear at venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Lincoln Center, The Royal Concertgebouw and London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Honorable Mentions for The Best Orchestras in World
Even with the ones mentioned above, we can’t end our list. There are many great orchestras that you should be aware of and worthy of mentioning. All of them have the potential to rise up the list over time, so here they come.
- Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Formed in 1949 by Eugen Jochum et al.
- San Francisco Symphony (Founded by Henry Hadley in 1911)
- Minnesota Orchestra (founded in 1903 by Emil Oberhoffer).
- St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (founded in 1880 by Joseph Otten).
- The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Founded by Mathew Truscott, and others.)
- Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, founded 1781 under the Gewandhausorchester.
- Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (founded in 1908, previously known as Symphony Orchestra of the Augusteo).
- The Aurora Orchestra was founded in 2005 by Robin Ticciati and Nicholas Collon.
- The Halle Orchestra, founded in 1858 by Charles Halle
We’ll have to stop here as this could go on for a long time. The whole list could be rearranged or changed if we weight the variables differently depending on the opinions of different people. These rankings are so entertaining and encourage so much discussion.
You might like this list? Why not check out our list of the most-sold artists of all time . To be successful, they require the same commitment to their craft as orchestra members. Enjoy the read about the top orchestras around the globe.
The Top 10 Most Outstanding Orchestras in the world
This table lists the top 10 most successful orchestras worldwide. It includes their names and the date they were found.
|1||Vienna Philharmonic||Franz Lachner, 1842|
|2||Chicago Symphony Orchestra||1891 by Theodore Thomas|
|3||London Symphony Orchestra||1904 by Adolf Borsdorf et al.|
|4||Berlin Philharmonic||1882 by Fruhere Bilsesche Kapelle|
|5||Cleveland Orchestra||1918 by Adella Prentiss Hughes|
|6||Philadelphia Orchestra||1900 by Fritz Scheel|
|7||Boston Symphony Orchestra||1881 by Henry Lee Higginson|
|8||New York Philharmonic||1842 by Ureli Hill|
|9||Atlanta Symphony Orchestra||1945 by Henry Sopkin|
|10||National Symphony Orchestra||1930 w/ Hans Kindler|