“I, too, am a king!” -- Beethoven
(Said to Holz, when the latter begged him not to sell the ring which King Frederick William III, of Prussia, had sent to him instead of money or an order in return for the dedication of the ninth symphony. “Master, keep the ring,” Holz had said, “it is from a king.” Beethoven made his remark “with indescribable dignity and self-consciousness.”)
Best Available Recording
This is a difficult call, to be sure; many great conductors and orchestras (not to mention an even larger number of not-so-great conductors and orchestras) have recorded Beethoven's Ninth, one of the most famous of all classical works. One candidate for best available recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is the May 10, 1991 recording by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Georg Solti conducting.
There are other famous recordings of Beethoven's Ninth, including Furtwangler's, Klemperer's, Stokowski's, etc., and all have points to recommend them. There's even another Solti recording, done later, which might be a bit better from a purely technological standpoint, but is different from this one in terms of energy.
Of course, there's nothing terribly wrong with owning more than one recorded version of this immortal work. At some point - and this will sound exceedingly odd, until you've reached the point of which I am about to speak - you'll almost have to get Furtwangler's recording as well, or at least listen to it a few times, just to see (hear) what all the fuss is about.
Before you ever reach that point, get the Solti recording, and enjoy it.
Issued in 2013 was a 4-disc DVD set of Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra through all nine of Beethoven's symphonies, filmed at the 2012 Proms. The box set also includes the BBC documentary Barenboim on Beethoven: Nine Symphonies That Changed the World, by Michael Waldman and Peter Dale. Thus, the set is, in our humble opinion, quite the bargain.
Regarding compact disc recordings, Medici Masters released on April 28, 2009, a recording of Otto Klemperer and the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra (Köln RSO) performing Beethoven's Ninth at a live concert given in Cologne in 1958. Testament (or BBC Testament) offers two other Klemperer live performances of this work, one from 1957, one from 1961, each with their particular charms. Put simply, you need at least one Klemperer live version of this work - choose one, they're all wonderful - and you'd be very happy to own all three.
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