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 Recording of the Week  The World's Great Orchestras, and Euros and US Dollars now accepted

An international perspective this week inspired by the Gramophone Magazine’s highly controversial ranking of the world’s twenty ‘greatest orchestras’. It was an ambitious project to say the least but they assembled an eleven-strong panel of worldwide music critics - comprising three British critics from the magazine, two Americans, two Asians and one each from Le Monde (France), Die Welt (Germany), De Telegraaf (the Netherlands) and Die Presse (Austria) - and valiantly set about the impossible.

Mariss Jansons
Mariss Jansons

I suppose the best opportunity you get anywhere in the world to compare the relative qualities of different orchestras is at the BBC Proms every summer where you can hear different world class orchestras night after night, but even then you’ve got a problem because they’re playing different music and they’ve almost always got different conductors as well.

And although I guess the make-up of the panel was designed to gave a good balance to the discussions, how many of them could for example claim to have heard the Saito Kinen Orchestra (Japan) recently (if at all) – yet that Orchestra ended up 19th on the list. The three British critics didn’t do much to help the British Orchestras with only the LSO making the list (at No. 4) compared with seven American ones! - surely the Philharmonia at least should have been up there.

As I said at the outset this sort of survey is always going to be controversial and I think the biggest omission is Claudio Abbado’s handpicked Lucerne Festival Orchestra which I'd have put in the top five, let alone top twenty. It is hard to argue with the top three though - in reverse order - Vienna, Berlin and the Royal Concertgebouw, although I’m sure Berlin and Vienna will both feel slightly peeved to have missed out on top spot, having traditionally fought each other for the unofficial title since the days of Karajan and Bernstein in the 1960s and 70s. The Royal Concertgebouw though under their principal conductor Mariss Jansons are fully deserving winners and follow up their recent outstanding Strauss Alpine Symphony (Disc of the Month in a recent Gramophone) with a new Mahler 5 which is out today and tops our New Release section below.

Continuing with the international theme, an important note this week for our overseas customers in that we’ve just introduced the option to pay in Euros and US dollars as well as Pounds Sterling. We’ve done this in response to a regular flow of emails asking to know exactly how much things will cost in these currencies, and we hope you will find the facility useful. We take a daily update from the bank to ensure that prices remain as close as possible to the Pound Sterling alternative, but you are free to shop in whichever currency you like – just click the 'Change country/currency' link in the top right corner of the website.

And of course with the fall in value of the pound over the last couple of months we think you’ll find our prices rather competitive, and hopefully our very fast turn-around of orders (made possible by our commitment to over 10,000 stock items) will help offset the extra day or two it spends in the post.

Any questions, as always please don’t hesitate to ask. And apologies if your currency still isn’t listed. We hope to roll out more next year.