The best French orchestras – and the very worst

The best French orchestras – and the very worst


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2011

It starts out as a newspaper celebration of orchestral life, but lists are the lifeblood of journalists and Le Figaro cannot resist splitting 26 national orchestras into four merit leagues: premier three, up-and-coming, must try harder and still disappointing.

There are obvious flaws in the method, as well as many points of contention. The orchestra of Paris Opera is ranked top, despite being a bloody-minded bunch who ran a woman conductor out of town, and Orchestre de Paris is next, overlooking its daily battle of wills with conductor Paavo Järvi.

Few, however, would challenge Toulouse as the third of the top three.

Elsewhere, I am not sure the fast-rising Philippe Auguin, new music director of the Washington National Opera, would agree that his orchestra in Nice is one of the worst.

Or that Marseille is a synonym for nonchalant routine. Read on here.

Oh, and here’s one that got overlooked:



  • PJ de B says:

    It’s hard to take an article on symphony orchestras seriously when the author doesn’t even know how to spell “philharmonic” correctly…

  • harold braun says:

    After watching a concert under new music director Leonard Slatkin on ARTE web,i`d say Lyon clearly tops the list!

  • ken n says:

    I have wondered why France – and Italy – have not produced any truly great orchestras. Though both have produced great conductors.
    Is it the Latin temperament?