We pit the major state orchestras against each other to see which band would emerge king of the concert hall.

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 Australia.

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 editor Francis Merson. 

A panel of 15 expert critics and musicians from around the country took part in the ranking of the Sydney, Melbourne, West Australian, Queensland, Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras.

“I hope the results stand as a testament to the excellence not only of those at the top of the ranking, 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.”

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.

Full details, including the panel’s comments on each orchestra, in the April edition of Limelight, on sale Wednesday, March 20. Buy your copy of the magazine here with free postage.