Most Sublime Beethoven Symphony

I am not an expert, but to me, the Beethoven Symphonies are divine.

I have especially enjoyed listening to the 3rd, 6th, and 9th and have a couple of versions of each floating around in my collection.

Perhaps they are just to my taste, but I seem to discover new things about them that draw me back again and again long after I have tired of other "classics".

A friend of mine who knows a lot more about music than I recommends Von Karajan highly, but I would love to hear from any of you regarding your thoughts on the best symphony, conducter, recording, performance etc. Would you agree that there is something very special about these works?

Any Beethoven gurus out there? Please give us your expert advice and opinions. Thank you.
Hi Cwlondon,

I am hardly a guru of Beethoven, I'll leave that to the more learned critics of Fanfare, Gramophone, etc...but I strongly encourage you to listen to Carlos Kleiber's (with Vienna Philharmonic, on DGG) recordings of the 5th and 7th symphonies. The performances are superb and have been in the catalog for many years. They are now available together on 1cd. He also has a live performance (only know of them on a Philips laser disc) with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of the 4th and 7th, which are also very fine. Also enthusiastically recommended is a live recording (used to be available on an Orfeo cd) of the 4th, with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Herr Kleiber's papa (Erich) recorded the 3rd (also with Vienna) that is also a must-hear.

I hope you get to know Carlos Kleiber's work, both in symphonic as well as operatic repertoire. He is trully "legendary."

With best wishes,
I second the recommendation of Carlos Kleiber's performance of the 5th and 7th - truly outstanding.

If you have an interest in exploring some "original instrument" performances of the symphonies, try Roger Norrignton on EMI - particularly his performances of the 2nd and 4th.
Yes the Kleiber are worth getting. Also fun is the 5th and 7th by Benjamin Zander and the Philharmonia Orchestra that has a companion CD lecture by Zander of both symphonies. (Ben Zander also praises Kleiber in his lecture).

I've heard all the complete sets, and my favorite Beethoven symphony complete cycle is a rare unheard one to most. It is with the City of Birmingham Orchestra conducted by Walter Weller; on the Chandos label. It even has the first movement of what historians think is a draft of the 10th symphony.

I'll offer more traditional performances of 3-6-9. 3: An old Karajan ('50s), Furtwangler, Klemperer, Walter; 6: Furtwangler. 9: Furtwangler, the old Karajan from the 60s. Don't remember the exact refs now, but mail me if interested. Cheers!
Have not heard the CDs, but Berlin Phil released a complete Beethoven cycle with Abado recently. I saw them perform 6 and 5 at carnegie last October, and it was the best concert I have ever seen. It had a magical impact on my emotions. I would buy BPO's set with Abbado if I didin't already have hundreds of other performances in my library.

As for Karajan, I have never been a fan. He seems cold and businesslike to me. He conducted with his eyes closed, and the lack of connection to (or interest in) the players has an audible result, in my opinion. There are exceptions, but I know of few.
I'm no guru, but I'll chip in.
Not the whole symphony, but the second movement of the 5th symphony is my favourite (of those I have heard). I could listen to it forever. Don't much care for the "pompous" first movement though.
On the Beethoven subject but straying to piano concertos I recently purchased the "emperor" (I forget the number). Again the slow movement is sublime.
Also in Piano sonatas the Appasionata I think is my favourite so far, but I still haven't heard them all.
As for performers .. well I like Ashkenazy on Decca ... I gather he's a bit of a love him or hate him as far as Beethoven goes, but I think he plays with great feeling.
There are so many to choose from. I enjoy Harnoncourt's recording of the third and Furtwangler's Berlin recording of the ninth. I also enjoy all of Klemperer's recordings.
My recommendations are:

For a new perspective listen to John Elliot Gardiner. Great sound, new scores prepared from from Beethoven's manuscripts, wonderful playing and conducting, and a true "classical" sound, authentic to the period.

For simplay magical playing listen to any and all of the Fritz Reiner/Chicago Symphone recordings. The playing is astonishing in its tightness and rhythmic drive. Some of the symphonies are available as XRCD discs and sound as good as I've heard.

For historical perspective the recordings by Klemperor and Furtwangler are wonderful. I always loved hearing Karajan live but the recordings do not sound good to me.

as for the Emperor Concerto, you will be blown away by Horowitz and Reiner on RCA (yes Horowitz); simply a joy. And every piano player loves it and wishes they could play is so effortlessly. It is Horowitz in his prime, circa 1955.
For performances that are both vigorous and rigorous, you can always count on Solti/Chicago. The miking/mixing isn't always the greatest, though. Sometimes you have to listen around the bonehead engineers.

I have about 8 different recordings of the 6th Symphony
(including the one by Reiner). The one I like best is the one by Karl Boehm with the Berliners; the Karajan is too fast. On the other hand I don't like Boehm's 5th, but like
Karajan's/ And, Karajan's 1962 recording of the 9th is the
best I've heard. Caveat: I'm not a musicologist or guru; I just know what I like.

Also listen to the Pollini/Boehm 4th Piano Concerto.

The Triple Concerto is a truly wonderful piece of music. I have the recording by Anda/Fournier///Can't remember the rest, but if you're interested, can send you the LP info.
Beethovens music is the only music that has moved to think that God was holding the composition pen directly as the notes were being put down. It is amazing to think that Beethoven reportedly labored over his compositions. You would think that his creations came forth with the ease which Bach, Teleman and Mozart displayed when composing.

I agree with the Kleiber and Gardiner rec's as being the most inspirational performances and from different performing practices to boot.

I hope that the conductor "Karl Boehm" mentioned here is the one I know - "Karl BOHM" (1894 - 1981).

For "sublime" performances, I will second Greg's suggestion. Just a FYI, some of those recordings are mono.

I recently listened to Schuricht's and Abendroth's performances, both of them demonstrated their unique readings of Beethoven's Symphonies.

Happy Listening.

Also recommended listening are Beethoven's "Choral Fantasia" and his 2 masses.

BTW Karl Boehm IS Karl Bohm
Both spellings of Bohm / Boehm are correct. Depends which language you are spelling in. Same as the use of Rachmaninoff or Rachmaninov; and Shostakovich or Chostakovich.
Abado and the Berlin Symph. on DGG. All symphonies. Unfortunately the recording-job is hideous! Flat and lifeless. CD sound exacerbated. But the renderings are superb, worth listening into, once you get over the initial anger about the sound.