Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s triumph in our World’s Favourite Orchestra poll may – at first glance – raise a few eyebrows. What is a sleepy seaside town like Bournemouth (and I was born there, so am entitled to make the claim!) doing snatching the crown from reigning champions Cleveland, a much bigger outfit? And where, I hear you cry, were the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Vienna Phil or the London Symphony Orchestra? Surely these are more entitled to claim to be among the world’s best orchestras, so why didn’t they feature strongly?

The clue is in the title. World’s Favourite Orchestra. Favourite. Not best. Even the orchestra’s most ardent fans wouldn’t suggest that – day in, day out – the orchestra can challenge the big beasts of the orchestral jungle. It is an extremely fine orchestra, led by a dynamic young Ukrainian conductor, Kirill Karabits and – on their day – they can pull off superb performances. Karabits has been focusing on Russian composers, particularly Prokofiev, in recent seasons and their performances and recordings have won widespread admiration. Previous principal conductors have brought their specialisms to bear, from Marin Alsop in American music to Paavo Berglund, peerless in Sibelius. Romanian conductor Constantin Silvestri’s recording with the BSO of Elgar’s In the South is arguably still the finest in the catalogue.

How did Bournemouth pull off this coup? I would argue that the orchestra has a strong base of loyal supporters – as many orchestras do – but that they also cover a wide area where they are quite often the only visiting professional orchestra. Despite their name, the orchestra hasn’t been based in Bournemouth for decades, relocating to Poole long before their old Winter Gardens home was razed to the ground in 2006. During the course of a typical season, however, the orchestra tours programmes to halls from Basingstoke and Portsmouth right the way down to the Southwest, to Bristol, Torquay and Exeter. In recent seasons, the BSO has also performed as pit orchestra for some Grange Park Opera. So, not just a loyal fan base, but a large loyal fan base, keen to support.

The orchestra deserves credit for promoting the campaign through social media. Twitter and Facebook pages have been busy prompting supporters to pop along and register their vote and I know that concert subscribers received an email a fortnight ago, spurring them into action. Even today, Kirill Karabits himself filmed a brief address to BSO supporters in a last-ditch appeal for votes! A well-deserved victory for Bournemouth’s team.

Alex Segrave, the BSO's Digital Officer, said “The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is delighted to have been voted the World’s Favourite Orchestra 2014. Our thanks to all who have voted for us in the last month, it is a testament to the loyalty of our supporters from the 10,000 square miles across the South and South West of England that we regularly visit.

“From the smallest to the biggest scale performance, from engaging new people to live music-making to those who have loved music all their lives, our Orchestra has the passion and flexibility to inspire audiences in a way that truly celebrates the role that culture, and in our case music, has and must always have in enhancing and transforming lives.”

Among those orchestras who also featured strongly, social media ensured Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati performed well, while support for Atlanta is doubtless connected to its current financial situation, with difficult wage negotiations taking place. The high number of votes for the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic probably reflects the impact they made on audiences at the BBC Proms this summer. 

Orchestras which share a location with other bands inevitably suffer from a split vote. London audiences, for example, have so many 'home team' orchestras to choose from that it takes something special just to reach the top 20, as indeed the LSO achieved. 


The full top 20 is:

  1. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – 14.94%

  2. Cleveland Orchestra – 14.18%

  3. Buffalo Philharmonic – 6.99%

  4. Atlanta Symphony – 6.32%

  5. Pittsburgh Symphony – 6.13%

  6. Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra – 5.78%

  7. Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra – 3.74%

  8. Cincinnati Symphony – 3.39%

  9. Philadelphia Orchestra – 3.32%

  10. Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra – 2.83%

  11. Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa – 1.89%

  12. European Youth Orchestra – 1.87%

  13. Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi – 1.84%

  14. Asian Youth Orchestra – 1.46%

  15. Berliner Philharmoniker – 1.4%

  16. Russian National Orchestra – 1.4%

  17. I, Culture Orchestra – 1.34%

  18. Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – 1.19%

  19. London Symphony Orchestra – 1.15%

  20. Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie – 1.15%