CNN publishes list of ‘the world’s greatest orchestras’

CNN publishes list of ‘the world’s greatest orchestras’


norman lebrecht

March 18, 2015

No criteria. No bylined author. And a disclaimer saying ‘not verified by CNN’.

This is what TV news journalism has come to.

Click here for the top ten.

berlin philharmonie beethoven 9



  • Anon says:

    One word: bullshit.

  • Brian says:

    Good grief, the texts are woeful.

    As if the number of Grammys or recordings meant anything…

  • Patrick says:

    Where’s the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and….what’s that orchestra in northern Illinois in that town on the lake?

  • Musician says:

    I can think of 5 American orchestras that routinely play better than the NY Philharmonic: Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and the National Symphony.

  • Martin H says:

    It’s from CNN and that says it all.

  • SDReader says:

    Byline is Grace Keiko.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    These lists are getting harder to believe because there are so many well recorded orchestras now. Why not follow the college sports rankings and expand it to the top 25? Have a “conductor’s poll” analogous to the “coach’s” poll, and a “critic’s poll” analogous to the “sportswriter’s poll”?

    However, there are too few US orchestras in this list.

  • Andrew says:

    Where is Chicago and Riccardo Muti???

  • Brian Hughes says:

    Tokyo is on the list with Boston, a resurgent Chicago, Cleveland, LA, etc. missing? The author really has no clue about what she(?) speaks. Has the author even listened to any of these bands? And yes, the texts are horrible.

  • Rachel says:

    Here is her profile:
    I’m Japanese American, and a Music critic, Columnist, Producer for about 30years. I am a Spokeswoman of the Music Association of U.S.A., and the Asia-Pacific Music & Arts League(APMAL) member.

  • Richard says:

    Yes, where is Chicago, Boston, Cleveland and Philadelphia?

  • William Ford says:

    And a resurgent Pittsburgh Symphony under Manfred Honeck. But really, aren’t such lists rather silly?

  • Rudiger says:

    No surprise here. CNN, what do they call themselves? “The Most Trusted Name in News” This should make people realise that their “reporting” on this story is no different than their reporting on other stories, dealing with issues that many of us here are not so well versed in, as we are on the best orchestras in the world. The Americans have about as much journalistic integrity as a middle school creative writing class and base their rankings on things like, who is the richest, who travels the most, who performs in the most expensive hall, who has the highest paid musicians and other “important” things like that. What the US news media has to say is of no interest to me, except for its comedic aspects. After all, the U.S. is now ranked at 49th in press freedom, so we shouldn’t expect too much from them that contains substance. Check this out:!/index-details

  • MacroV says:

    First of all, it’s not news, it’s opinion. And if you leave Chicago and Cleveland out, it can’t be taken seriously. What, even, IS the Tokyo Philharmonic?

    And as a temporary resident of Prague, while I’m a great admirer of the Czech Philharmonic, I wouldn’t say they’re a top 10 orchestra.

    But let’s be glad: In a world where classical music has been dying for some time, there are still a LOT of great orchestras out there. More than ever, in fact.

    • MWnyc says:

      “What, even, IS the Tokyo Philharmonic?”

      Come on now, let’s not be snotty about this.

      After all, time was that many people (including more than one prominent music critic of my acquaintance) might have asked, “What even, IS the Bach Collegium Japan?” Well, the Bach Collegium Japan is arguably the best Baroque-orchestra-and-choir combo in the world – yes, to my ears better than Gardiner’s, Herreweghe’s, Koopman’s, and (except in French rep) Christie’s groups, and unquestionably their peer.

      So don’t be so sure that (Western) art music is necessarily inferior in Japan.

      The Tokyo Philharmonic is one of eight (I believe) professional symphony orchestras in Tokyo, most if not all of them full-time.

      My understanding is that the Tokyo Philharmonic and Tokyo Symphony are both more or less analogous to the Vienna Symphony or Berlin Symphony, and that the leading orchestra in Tokyo (the analogue to the Philharmoniker in Berlin and Vienna – or, really, the the Bavarian Radio Symphony) is traditionally the NHK Symphony.

  • Doug says:

    I guess there was no new news on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 today.

  • TI says:

    It’s an iReport – i.e. viewer contribution, not a journalistic piece. To provide a bit more balance, here is what CNN says about what iReport is about and meant to do:

    “iReport is an invitation for you to be a part of CNN’s coverage of the stories you care about and an opportunity to be a part of a global community of men and women who are as passionate about the news as you are. At CNN we believe that looking at the news from different angles gives us a deeper understanding of what’s going on. We also know that the world is an amazing place filled with interesting people doing fascinating things that don’t always make the news.

    “That’s why iReport is full of tools to help you tell your stories and discuss the issues that are important to you. Since everyone’s interests are different, we’ve also built new tools to help you customize your iReport experience – if you’re into politics, travel and sports, you’ll see different stories than fans of tech, health and food stories. We’ve also created groups so you can hang out and even collaborate with iReporters with similar interests.

    “Everything you see on iReport starts with someone in the CNN audience. The stories here are not edited fact-checked or screened before they post. CNN’s producers will check out some of the most compelling, important and urgent iReports and, once they’re cleared for CNN, make them a part of CNN’s news coverage. (Look for the red “CNN iReport” stamp to see which stories have been verified for CNN.) More on how iReport works »

    Together, CNN and iReport can paint a more complete picture of the news. We’d love for you to join us. Jump on in, tell your story and see how it connects with someone on the other side of the world”.

  • Alberto G. L. Mezzetto says:

    Well, well…. “Greatest”. Seems an ordinary, plain, CNN-like fact. Like the others, I mean. Sounds earnest. Even conceivable; just a little effort. OK. Let’s believe it (come, come… just a little effort, remember? Something like “bonne mine à mauvais jeu”). Even better: let’s explain it, filling a “Greatest by” new list:
    1. ?
    2. Number of musicians and employees?
    3. ?
    4. Quotations in Slipped Disc?
    5. ?
    6. Unsold tickets?
    7. ?
    8. ?
    Please don’t exceed nr. 17, not to be tedious; by the way, don’t be rude with innocent (etym.) players and the innocent (etym.) public. You can abuse conductors. Thank you.

  • Ben says:

    Ranking stuff like this is like ranking who are the best composers, who are the best scientists etc. Arts isn’t individual competition sport like swimming or fencing or marathon.

    Nobody should get excited nor offended by non-sense like this. Just some poor soul striving for her/his 5 minutes of fame (or shame).

    Anybody with good sense in music knows you don’t compare two greats together – one of them always get diminished — let alone comparing so many great orchestras out there and then rank the top 10. Even ranking top 25 is meaningless.

  • Musician says:

    I can think of five orchestras in America that routinely play better than the New York Philharmonic: Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the National Symphony in Washington, DC.

  • Freddy says:

    Any self-proclaimed music “maven” who doesn’t recognize The Cleveland Orchestra on one of these lists is an idiot…..

    • David J Gill says:

      Can’t agree more. Cleveland is perhaps still a connoisseur’s choice. And because Cleveland isn’t exactly a metropolis of world stature (don’t get me wrong…I’m from Cleveland) it may still be overlooked by some. But this CNN list is from left field…among many other better orchestra inexplicably missing is Chicago.

  • Nick says:

    It’s just part of a meaningless and utterly stupid long running CNN series. Look at some of the others presently featured –

    15 of the world’s most colourful landscapes!
    10 of the world’s most quirky restaurants!
    14 of the world’s most outrageous hotel pools!

    ‘Nuff said!

    I’ll take a bet there will soon be a list of the worl’s best classical soloists –

    Lang Lang
    Lang Lang
    Lang Lang
    Lang Lang

    • Max Grimm says:

      I would say that the problem is not confined to CNN but is an American problem. While subjectivity has been made synonymous with objectivity in many places around the world, American media probably wins the prize for cavalier phraseology and wording and a propensity for an excessive use of superlatives.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    I love the absence of any criteria. It really makes the list valuable.

  • mathias broucek says:

    Nonsense! Are the Tokyo and Czech orchestras really better than the Bavarian RSO?

  • Papageno says:

    No mention of the P.D.Q. Bach Philharmonic?

    Seriously though, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cleveland, Boston, Philly (the “Super Seven” with New York), are all top ten material. Several other top American orchestras — Pittsburgh, Dallas, Cincinnati, NSO-Washington, Seattle, etc — and a number of British and European bands outplay Tokyo regularly.

    The omission of the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Jansons is like baking a birthday cake and forgetting the icing.

  • Jules says:

    Lists are odious. Rolling Stone does this all the time to generate sales and hits. A pointless exercise at best.

  • Dave says:

    Not even something you can judge. Look at the new haven symphony. Fantastic!!!!!!

  • Wayne Shandera says:

    Minnesota and Houston belong in serious consideration too.