Poll

Which of the traditional "Big 5" American orchestras is your favorite?

Boston Symphony Orchestra
2 (10.5%)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
6 (31.6%)
Cleveland Orchestra
3 (15.8%)
New York Philharmonic
4 (21.1%)
Philadelphia Orchestra
4 (21.1%)

Total Members Voted: 18

Author Topic: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?  (Read 1269 times)

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Offline vers la flamme

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Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« on: July 12, 2020, 12:39:15 PM »
The idea of the "Big 5" American orchestras may not hold as much weight as it once did, but there is something to the idea that each one of these orchestras is a formidable institution with decades of great recordings under their belt. As such, it may be tough to pick a single favorite, but I would really be curious to see the results. It seems to be that these orchestras don't sound as distinct as they once did. Common opinion used to hold that each of these orchestras had a signature sound, but nowadays they seem to be less distinguishable from one another. Thus I'm asking this as somewhat of a "legacy" question in which I implore everyone to factor in recordings and performances from all throughout history, rather than merely the state of the orchestra in question today.

For me, I think I'm going to have to rock with Chicago. They are just a killer orchestra no matter how you slice it; a true virtuoso orchestra. They've also been lucky to have performed and recorded under so many phenomenal conductors: Reiner (under whose baton the CSO became a true powerhouse with a streak of legendary recordings matched by few others), Martinon, Kubelik, Solti, Boulez, Abbado, Giulini etc... Moreover they were and are a very adaptable ensemble.

Close behind them are the Cleveland, my esteem for which grows with each recording I hear from them—especially the Szell years. The Philadelphia O are also quickly rising in my estimation, especially their work under Eugene Ormandy. Honorable mention to the NYP who formed a deep symbiosis w/ Leonard Bernstein, who may be my overall favorite conductor, but somehow I find their overall level of virtuosity a bit wanting, compared to the Chicago and Cleveland.

Thoughts?

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2020, 12:49:31 PM »
I voted for Chicago but I could have voted for NYPO instead.
Give us something else; give us something new; for Heaven's sake give us something bad, so long as we feel we are alive and active and not just passive admirers of tradition!

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Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2020, 12:56:22 PM »
I'm a native of northeastern Ohio, grew up in the Szell years, so you can guess my vote.

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Offline Daverz

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2020, 01:05:31 PM »
Pittsburgh!

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2020, 01:16:30 PM »


For me, I think I'm going to have to rock with Chicago. They are just a killer orchestra no matter how you slice it; a true virtuoso orchestra. They've also been lucky to have performed and recorded under so many phenomenal conductors: Reiner (under whose baton the CSO became a true powerhouse with a streak of legendary recordings matched by few others), Martinon, Kubelik, Solti, Boulez, Abbado, Giulini etc... Moreover they were and are a very adaptable ensemble.

Close behind them are the Cleveland, my esteem for which grows with each recording I hear from them—especially the Szell years. The Philadelphia O are also quickly rising in my estimation, especially their work under Eugene Ormandy.

We're thinking along similar lines but maybe for different reasons. I pick Chicago because it's my local orchestra, I've heard them more often than any other orchestra, and I have more recordings by them than any other American orchestra. The only other Big 5 that I've heard live is Philadelphia, when I was living in the Philly/NJ area. So I can't really do a "live" comparison of all of them.

But I would put Cleveland of the Szell years and Philly of the Ormandy years right behind, just for that recorded legacy.

Seems like a different world now, but the CSO of the 70s/80s was a recording mega-powerhouse, pumping out records for Decca, DG, EMI and RCA, under Solti, Abbado, Giulini, Levine, Barenboim, and Ozawa, plus all kinds of one-offs by guest conductors, including Bernstein, Wand, and Tennstedt. I don't know if any other American orchestra recorded so many different conductors within such a relatively short time.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2020, 01:42:47 PM »
The New York Philharmonic for me.
“Competitions are for horses; not artists.” - Béla Bartók

Offline Brian

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2020, 02:41:40 PM »
Whoa, this is nearly impossible for me. I envy the people who can answer easily. Maybe some decisive listening is in order!

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2020, 01:55:03 AM »
Whoa, this is nearly impossible for me. I envy the people who can answer easily. Maybe some decisive listening is in order!

It was tough for me too; if I didn't find Chicago to be just a cut above the rest, then it may have been a four-way tie (sorry, Boston—I never got into them as much, though I would like to).

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2020, 03:34:12 AM »
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2020, 05:43:24 AM »
Since the Utah SO was not on the list I voted for the Philadelphia Orchestra although the NYPO and Boston SO are other favourites as well.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2020, 05:45:21 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2020, 08:25:06 AM »
Since the Utah SO was not on the list I voted for the Philadelphia Orchestra although the NYPO and Boston SO are other favourites as well.

Nice!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2020, 08:27:50 AM »
As for meself ... too dang tough to choose. Even my sentimental attachments are a Gordian tangle.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Scion7

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2020, 06:40:49 AM »
toss up between Ormandy's Philadelphia Orch, the Chicago Symphony and the NYPO - cast for Ormandy in memoriam

[but I am also quite fond of the other two orchestras - the Cleveland needs another conductor on par with Szell]
« Last Edit: October 25, 2020, 08:37:09 AM by Scion7 »
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2020, 03:26:49 AM »
Two great Boston SO recordings:

"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2021, 06:26:14 AM »
Has to be the New York Philharmonic, because for me they're like the home team . . . .
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Offline amw

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2021, 06:42:30 AM »
I would rate them Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, New York, in that order and taking into account all of their historical recordings. (I say this as someone who considers NYC my home city.) These days only Chicago would make the current “big 5” I think, although the rest of the spots would involve some negotiating between Pittsburgh, Minnesota, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. Or perhaps a rotation schedule. The remainder of the old big 5 do still turn in top flight recordings sometimes, but seem to have lost some amount of dynamism—perhaps it’s the loss of their various pivotal figures (Szell, Ormandy, Munch, Bernstein).

Offline relm1

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2021, 07:47:15 AM »
My vote is my home town band, Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Just superb and dynamic ensemble in a fantastic concert hall.

Offline DavidW

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Re: Favorite of the "Big 5" American orchestras?
« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2021, 08:46:18 AM »
Historically NYPO simply because I think Bernstein's recordings with them eclipse collectively everything else the other big orchestras have done.

Currently I prefer LAPO, SFSO, and DSO over those once legendary big 5.