While our sports teams may be slowly sucking the life out of us Chicagoans, our symphony orchestra totally rocks! Beating out its flashier counterparts (we're looking at you, New York Philharmonic), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra took top U.S. honors in Gramophone magazine's list of the world's best orchestras.
British classical music publication Gramophone polled critics from Europe, Asia and the U.S. to name their favorite 20 orchestras around the world. Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra grabbed the top spot (with Berlin, Vienna and London hot on its heels), and in the number five slot with a bullet: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! (Other U.S. finalists included the Cleveland Orchestra at #7, the L.A. Philharmonic at #8, the Boston Symphony Orchestra at #11, the New York Philharmonic all the way down at #12, the San Francisco Symphony at #13 and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at #18.) It's a Midwestern smackdown!
Chicago's stellar showing may have surprised some, but as Gramophone editor James Inverne told NPR's Tom Huizenga this morning, "Chicago famously has this incredible brass sound. And it just pins you to the back of your seat. And the way that the brass sound shoots out exemplifies a lot about the orchestra, which is a sense of adventure in music-making."
In the same NPR segment, Huizenga talks to the Chicago Tribune's classical music critic John von Rhein, who makes the point that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is also financially solvent. "As of June 30, the orchestra not only balanced its books, but turned up a modest surplus. They reported strong fundraising, with ticket sales exceeding 85 percent paid capacity, which is high for American orchestras."
It might even be higher than the turn-out at the next Bears home game.