Almost an impossibility considering the variables, this list is made up of orchestras emphasizing technical viruosity, brilliant soloists, valued traditions, blend and balance, flawless intonation and ensemble, unique timbres, conductor draw, musical consistency at home and on tour, etc. As money, music directors, favours are continually in flux, we could do another list next year (or, maybe next month) and it may look completely different. But, for now, this is how Audiophilia sees it (as of 2015).

You’ll see a few changes this year. Conductors are making a big difference in Philadelphia and Boston, working conditions in London still hinder consistency, awful halls in New York, London (x2), Toronto and Munich don’t help the big picture, luster has rubbed off some conductors, including Gergiev (LSO), and the death of Claudio Abbado has had an obvious effect on his very gifted child, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.


1. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
2. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
3. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam
4. Chicago Symphony Orchestra
5. Boston Symphony Orchestra
6. London Symphony Orchestra
7. Philadelphia Orchestra
8. The Cleveland Orchestra
9. Dresden Staatskapelle
10. Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

Honorable Mention: Leipzig Gewandhaus

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Classic film scores by Sir Malcolm Arnold — The Roots of Heaven; David Copperfield [62:09]
Naxos Film Music Classics
Naxos 8.573366

Arnold is mostly remembered today for his English Dances which have been used for many TV shows but during the 1950s he was a regular composer for major movies and his score for Bridge over the River Kwai won him an Oscar in 1958.

In later life he battled mental health problems and lived an erratic lifestyle, his family found the battered and chipped Oscar statuette holding open the bathroom door – a sad end to what had been a fine movie career.

These two scores show just how good he was at handling the demands of writing for the screen. The Roots of Heaven was directed by John Huston and starred Errol Flynn and Trevor Howard in a tale of elephant poachers in Africa and although it received mixed revues at the time both Arnold and Howard received much praise for their work. The score has a sweep and grandeur that befit a Hollywood epic produced by Darrell F Zanuck and the Moscow orchestra play it with great enthusiasm and energy.

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TIDAL HiFi (Tidal) introduced its product as ‘the first music streaming service that combines the best High Fidelity sound quality, High Definition music videos and expertly Curated Editorial’.

Just as the cell phone size wars have come to an end with the large iPhone 6 Plus, I think the same has happened with music delivery formats. Other than getting a chip inserted in your brain, ‘streaming’ high fidelity music from the Cloud is the end of the technological road for audiophiles. From mono records through to CD and beyond, we’ve arrived. Streaming is the final monolith.

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Over the last year and a half, I have been paying careful attention to stereo headphones. Before then, I had a kind of ‘who cares’ attitude towards them. I ruled that a fine stereo system at home with excellent speakers and such was all one needs—using headphones was audio blasphemy. But the recent surge in high-quality headphones together with specialized amps for accommodating them wowed me in sound quality, turned me around and caused me to reevaluate my stand. I am talking about over-the-ear high-end closed models in what follows. My focus has been on closed since otherwise the sound will be heard by others around you and one can hear external noise (buses, cars, kids): that is not what I want. It would defeat my purpose of using headphones in the first place versus just playing my system.

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Vancouver is a short ferry ride from Audiophilia West, here in in beautiful Victoria, BC. So, it is fortuitous for us that Chester Group, who are slowly gobbling up all the major players in the audio show business, has organized an audio show in Canada’s most beautiful city. The city deserves one.

Here’s hoping the inaugural Vancouver show is the first of many and emulates the development and popularity of Chester Group’s sister shows.

Of course, we’ll be there to report. And as always, Audiophilia’s show report will be published by 9:00 a.m. PST the morning after the show closes.



On May 11, 2015, the members of the legendary Berliner Philharmoniker will vote to elect their new chief conductor. This type of musical democracy is not prevalent in most major orchestras, but as the band’s ID suggests, ‘128 virtuosos, one orchestra’, so who’s to argue their choice?

Recently, I was lucky enough to receive an open ticket to the orchestra’s brilliant and benchmark Digital Concert Hall. For the last few seasons, it’s been a veritable who’s who of jet set stars conducting. The concerts have been instructive and I have my favourites and who I think should lead the pack.

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The Art of Bach [74:00]
Anderson & Roe Piano Duo with Augustin Hadelich, violin
Steinway & Sons 30033
Release Date: 01/13/2015

I am an avid listener of WQXR, Manhattan’s 24 hour per day, 7 days per week, classical music station. It offers an eclectic mix of music spanning the 15th through the 21st centuries and live broadcasts from Carnegie Hall and the MET. I have requested many review CDs after hearing them on WQXR.

During January 2015, The Art of Bach, released by Steinway & Sons was one of the station’s two “CDs of the Month”. The disk contains sacred and secular works, written by JS Bach, arranged for two pianos.

While listening to the station, I heard two tracks from the aforementioned CD, namely Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto Number Three”, and “Concerto for Two Keyboards, BWV 1061”. I was impressed with the performance and the effectiveness of substituting two pianos for a larger ensemble.

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Bel Canto, Minnesota’s manufacturer of quality hifi equipment has kicked its already wonderful digital line up a notch with ‘Black’. Black is a deceptively simple digital/amplification solution for your high end needs — described by Bel Canto as: ‘elegant simplicity. Three boxes. Two connections. One coveted musical result.’

I’m not usually a fan of ‘closed’ high end systems, but Black will cover all of your digital/amplification needs for some time to come. Bel Canto usually provides an upgrade path, too, should your needs change. With Black, I’m not sure it will. Every digital and analog outcome has been covered. Sure, it can be as simple to use as you like, but there is some head spinning complexity in the delivery. Fans and fans-to-be should check out Black’s dedicated website for a description of its advanced technology.

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