Spring's Top 5 Visiting Orchestras

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross wrote his latest column about the procession of visiting orchestras to perform recently at Carnegie Hall. Citing Gramophone’s 2008 poll ranking the world’s greatest orchestras, Ross determined that 10 of the orchestras on that list have played at Carnegie Hall in the last month.

This torrent of esteemed ensembles may have ended, but another steady stream is heading for New York this spring. Despite the inherent subjectivity of ranking anything in the arts, here is a selection of the notable orchestras coming to New York City this spring, along with their Gramophone rankings.

1. Cleveland Orchestra (Gramophone rank: 7)
Despite recent financial troubles, Cleveland continues to combine Continental finesse with American pluck. Under Austrian Franz Welser-Möst--whose contract lasts until 2018--the orchestra has toured extensively and holds residencies in Austria and Switzerland. They come to Carnegie Hall in May with Beethoven’s Eroica.

2. LA Philharmonic (Gramophone rank: 8)
Former director Esa Pekka Salonen catapulted the LA Philharmonic into Gramophone’s top 10, and early reports of the Gustavo Dudamel era signal that it should stay on its lofty perch. The orchestra has become known for its commitment to playing contemporary music, which will be on display when they perform the New York premiere of John Adam’s City Noir.

3. Budapest Festival Orchestra (Gramophone rank: 9)
Perhaps no orchestra best personifies its artistic leader than the Budapest Festival Orchestra, which is still led by founder Ivan Fischer. The group comes to Lincoln Center with an unranked but esteemed period instrument ensemble, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, for a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies.

4. San Francisco Symphony (Gramophone rank: 13)
Over Michael Tilson Thomas’ 15-year tenure as music director, he has refined and polished the San Francisco Symphony. Together they’ve earned accolades for their in interpretation of Mahler symphonies. New York audiences will be able to experience his interpretation for themselves as he conducts the Resurrection Symphony in the second of two concerts at Carnegie Hall.

5. The Met Orchestra (Gramophone rank: 18)
James Levine has cultivated one of the greatest pit orchestra’s in the world, and in doing so has put together a high-quality symphonic ensemble as well. It’s technically from New York, but on May 16, Pierre Boulez leads the orchestra eight blocks downtown for a performance of Bartok’s The Wooden Prince and Schoenberg’s Erwartung at Carnegie Hall.

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