Big Five (orchestras)
The Big Five orchestras of the United States are the five symphony orchestras that led the field in "musical excellence, calibre of musicianship, total contract weeks, weekly basic wages, recording guarantees, and paid vacations" when the term gained currency in the late 1950s and for some years afterwards. In order of foundation, they were:
- New York Philharmonic (1842)
- Boston Symphony Orchestra (1881)
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1891)
- Philadelphia Orchestra (1900)
- Cleveland Orchestra (1918).
The term "Big Five" was coined around the time that long-playing recordings became available, regular orchestral radio broadcasts were expanding, and the five orchestras that make up the group had annual concert series in New York City. In the early 20th century, people talked about the "Major Seven" U.S. orchestras. By mid-century, with recordings and radio broadcasts dominated by East Coast ensembles, it became the "Big Three": New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. While this label was still being used in the late 1950s (e.g. Newsweek, 17 February 1958), the growing prestige of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner at this time saw the "Big Three" become the "Big Five".
Modern use 
People still refer to the "Big Five", but many believe the classification to be outdated. Several critics have suggested that the top echelon is expanded, including Michael Walsh in Time, 1983; Tim Page in Newsday, 1990; and Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, 2005. Among the orchestras proposed for inclusion are the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,
Seven American orchestras were numbered among the world's top twenty in a 2008 critics' poll by Gramophone. They were, in rank order, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (5th), the Cleveland Orchestra (7th), the Los Angeles Philharmonic (8th), the Boston Symphony Orchestra (11th), the New York Philharmonic (12th), the San Francisco Symphony (13th), and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (New York City) (18th).
See also 
- Robert R. Faulkiner, "Career Concerns and Mobility Motivations of Orchestra Musicians", The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Summer, 1973), p. 336. Archived at JSTOR. Retrieved 28 March 2012. Subscription required.
- Fred Kirshnit, "New York Drops Off the List of 'Big Five' Orchestras", New York Sun, 5 December 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- Michael Walsh, Lee Griggs, James Shepherd, "Music: Which U.S. Orchestras Are Best?" Time, April 25, 1983. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- History of the New York Philharmonic (official website). Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- History of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (official website). Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- History of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (official website). Retrieved 28 March 2012.
- History of the Philadelphia Orchestra (official website). Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- History of the Cleveland Orchestra (official website). Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- Wayne Lee Gay, "Classical's `Big Five' are on top again", San Diego Union-Tribune, May 24, 2003, p. E6.
- Tim Page, "Now Hear This. Why do the so-called Big Five stand out from all other U.S. orchestras?" Newsday, 15 April 1990, p. 10. Abstract retrieved 18 July 2010.
- Mark Swed, "Time to get on the stick", Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
- Mary Ann Glynn, [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=SlJPJWzv-qkC&pg=PA65&dq=The Boston Globe, 29 August 1993. Retrieved 18 July 2010. Subscription required.
- "The World's Greatest Orchestras", Gramophone, December 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
Further reading 
- Lebrecht, Norman, "Bucks Stop Here: The Biggest Need Not Be the Best", La Scena Musicale, 5 July 2000.