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Classical music and arts magazine Limelight has rated the country’s six state symphony orchestras in a comprehensive “blind” listening test – the first of its kind to be undertaken in this country. “Limelight’s ranking, free of hometown loyalty and preconception, is the most accurate appraisal to date of how well our six state orchestras do their job of making music,” said Limelight’s editor Francis Merson.
A panel of 15 expert critics and musicians from around the country took part in the ranking. “I hope the results stand as a testament to the excellence not only of those at the top, but to all the orchestras involved,” said Merson. “Many judges remarked on the difficulty of finding points of difference between such superb ensembles… Still, there was one very clear winner, who deserves special plaudits for a stunning year of live performance.”
The Sydney Symphony took First Place, leading the pack by the most significant margin in the entire survey.
The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was runner-up, followed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Third Place.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the survey was the poor showing of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, who garnered Fourth Place and were consistently placed in the bottom half of the ranking by the panel’s judges.
Bringing up the rear were the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and, trailing by a large gap, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
How the blind-test worked
A panel of 15 expert critics and professional musicians from around the country – many of whom wished to remain anonymous – was sent ABC recordings of live concerts by the six orchestras from throughout 2012. The judges were left blind as to which orchestra was which (each one received a label from A to F) in order to obviate any prejudice or hometown loyalty. All attempts were made to match repertoire between the orchestras, and to include a variety of styles, conductors and soloists in order to capture the range of each ensemble’s expressive power. Each judge was asked to review all the works performed by each orchestra and to provide an overall ranking of the orchestras from one to six.
The full results, including the panel’s detailed and intimate comments on each orchestra, will be published in the April issue of Limelight and is, as usual, available from our online store with free postage!
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