Beethoven Ninth Symphony

Wanting recommendations for a top-notch recording which has all the passion and fire, and outstanding sonics. I can play CDs and SACDs, but not DVD-As.

Furtwangler's may be the best ever performances, but sonically they are very poor.... sigh.
vanska's 9th is wonderful..minnesota symphony sacd...he has done ..i believe ..all 9 to this point as the 2nd and 7th are due to be released soon
Merlinus, You might want to check out a bargain SACD set I've been enjoying. has a Phillips Germany set of all nine of Ludwig's symphonies (Catalog # 476028-2) by Jaap van Zweden & the Residente Orchestre for $35.00. The performances are very enjoyable and the sound is quite fine. His orchestra doesn't use vibrato and is informed by the early music movement, but the instruments are modern. has numerous reviews of the set from listeners.
I agree that Furtwangler's performances cannot be beat. The recordings from during the war on Music and Arts and the Tahra recordings are not the best. The EMI from 53 isn't too bad. As to other recordings, Gunter Wand's sounds decent as does Harnoncourt's but I don't know that these are avaiable except in box sets. Bohm's is also not bad. Vanska's probably has the cleanest sound.
i prefer Toscanini's sym.9 over Furtwangler's, but both are sonically not that great.

the Vanska Beethoven sym recordings are all very good. definitely worth getting.
I just got the same set Photon46 mentions and can confirm that it is a very nice set. You might want to pick it up before it disappears at that price (for SACDs from Phillips). I used to live in The Hague and listen to that orchestra...they have a nice, warm sound. I haven't gotten to the 9th yet...but I'll pass on a story: I studied counterpoint years ago in college from a guy who had played clarinet under Toscanini in the NBC Orchestra. Great guy...used to sit on his desk, chain smoke Pall Malls and tell stories of the good ol' days, in between pounding on us about the mathematics of counterpoint. One day he said, mischievously, "You know, some of us say that Beethoven struck out in the 9th." We were all a bit taken aback. One just didn't say that sort of thing. Yet, thirty years later, I have to admit, I rarely listen to the 9th. If I'm in the mood for Beethoven symphonies, I'd rather hear 1,2,4,6, or 8.

But when I do listen to the 9th, my preference is for Toscanini. And some of the old RCA mono Lp's (Shaded Dogs) sound pretty darn good. (And some of them don't...)
For me The 9th Karajan"s interpretation with Vienna symphony is the Ultimate.It has to be heard on DG SACD pressings though,the Cd edition is just too muffled.

Of course it is still not the same as the original vinyl pressings.....
I'm more partial to some of the older ones myself, but if you want an excellent performance on CD of an original instrument group, you cannot do better than John Eliot Gardiner's set.
I agree with Fafafion. The Karajan DG SACD reading is outstanding.
I am partial to the Solti/Chicago reading of the 9th on the London label. Big, bold sound with a lot of energy.
I like both the Vanska SACD with the Minnesota Orchestra and the 1963 von Karajan version (I don't have that SACD, but do have the vinyl, it seems to have been recorded before DG started going crazy with the multimiking so it's a decent sounding recording as well as one of the great interpretations of the piece).

And I agree with Eweedhome, other than the second movement, which is arguably the best dance movement ever written, I'm not as big a fan of this symphony as others. It is better to me when listened to live rather than on recordings, maybe the grandeur comes through better in performance than on record, but I just find the last movement to be overdone. I have been overruled on this by many others, of course.
Barenboim recorded all 9 symphonies. Usually his interpretation of Beethoven is very good.
The entire Barenboim set of 9 symphonies and four overtures is available from Amazon UK for a tad under $29 including airmail delivery.
If you want a ninth that is a spiritual experience,then Barenboim's live in Berlin recording with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is by far the best I have ever heard. Daniel has a masterpiece,pace,power,energy,and sound that is extraordinay,Bravo.

As a side picked it up at Borders earlier in the evening,50 off sale,for 8 bucks,what a deal.
I *strongly* recommend John Elliott Gardiner's Beethoven cycle. I have several (maybe 10?) recordings of the 9th, but the Gardiner is my favorite.

Tight, clean rhythms, outstanding soloists, interesting and contemporary interpretation, great mic placement, and great mixing. Musically and sonically outstanding ... hear it if you can.

CD format only, I believe.
Gunter Wand on RCA Red Seal.
Bernstein with the Vienna Philharmonic is my (rather unusual I think) recommendation. In fact his entire budget set by DG is worth having. And I'm not a Bernstein advocate! In general he picks up the pace a bit and his music is just plain joyous and exciting, not somber, overblown and, well sorta (for me) uninteresting. Greatly underrated I think. And the rest, i.e.

Reiner and the CSO

Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra on BIS BTW, although I'm not sure why, I really like the Vanska with the gain higher than normal, it brings the music to life.

Von Karajam's 1963 performance, at least performance wise. I've not heard it on CD so I don't lnow about sound quality

And last, but not least, Kubelik and the Baverian SO.

Think about the Bernstein! :-)
Furtwangler's final performance has been released on SACD. It was recorded in '54. The sound is decidedly mono, but warm and full; probably as good as it can get on SACD.

IMHO Karajan's with Baltsa from the '70's has the best, most intensely-beautiful slow mov't I've ever heard, but the sound gets downright ugly in the final mov't. (All things being equal, it's a hard mov't to record.) Fricsay's IMHO is the most "sensible" and that's no slight: it's a gorgeous and exciting reading in DG's early, sensible stereo sound.

One final word: There are probably 120 available Beethoven 9th's. I've not hear them all by a long shot. Right now I'm falling in love with Beethoven all over again listening to Scherchen's cycle on Westminster Lp's. Some of these are available on CD. He takes Beethoven's metronome markings at the Composer's word--they're very fast in the outer mov'ts, but oh so exhilarating. Some claim that his orchestras weren't up to the task, but I'll take these fascinating thrill-rides any day over the plush, careful performances we get today. Do give one a spin.
Well, for once, Newbee and I hear ear to ear (;
i second Newbee's Bernstein / VPO recommendation.
there's an excellent Bernstein Beethoven cycle on SHM-CD. it's not cheap but the sonics are great & the performance IMO is as good as it gets (even better than the Vanska, Toscanini, Furtwrangler, & Karajan recordings).

don't get the Bernstein Berlin Wall live recording tho. that one sucks (pardon my language).
Detlof, LOL - at last I get my due acknowledgement from one of the gods of audio. As a broken clock is right twice a day, so can a Newbee. :-) But lets not make this a habit, too much concurrence gets boring.
Don't worry dear Newbee, we can't afford to get you bored....we need to hear you ticking....(;
I really like the Hanover Band's period accurate using Beethoven's notes for a London performance. It is radically different than any other that I have heard.The chorus is hands down the best, with a trim tone and not a huge wash of vibrato. Also much faster tempos.The period instruments finish off what I consider a great project recording.

I have not heard the John Elliott Gardner recording,but I am sure it would be excellent,because he is a choral director first and a big Symphonic director second.Very much in the English tradition.