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Ludwig Van Beethoven is one of the most recorded composers in history, so it's no surprise that those recordings spark debate. Let Classic FM take you through the definitive Beethoven recordings - with download links.
Impeccable sound quality, unbridled energy of performance and the consistency of Karajan's vision are what makes this recording of Beethoven's biggest symphony the one to go for. Just look at Karajan's stance on the cover art - he means business. Click below to download.
This landmark recording came captures conductor Otto Klemperer performing Beethoven's only opera at Covent Garden Opera House with an impeccable cast. It helped to cement Klemperer's reputation as one of the finest Beethoven interpreters of the time, and the live setting makes it even more magical.
Arturo Toscanini's 5th Symphony recording is justly one of the most respected and revered readings of a Beethoven symphony out there. Legend has it that Toscanini could often be heard humming along to the music from the conductor's podium - thankfully not in this case.
How about this for authenticity - Jorg Demus recorded this piano sonata on Beethoven's actual piano! Obviously, being a couple of hundred years old the tone is a little more honky-tonk than concert hall, but Demus' fantastic interpretation brings out the colours and lets us hear it as it would've sounded to the composer himself.
A stalwart of the Austrian music scene and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, few violinists engaged with Beethoven's material quite so much as Schneiderhan. And listening to this recording, it's easy to see why the speccy fiddler was such a critical success - his lightning-quick runs are perfectly balanced by the more thoughtful passages.
Yehudi Menuhin's reputation is legendary in the classical world, but this superb recording comes from a period when his musical life was striding into pastures new. As the 70s arrived he was regularly recording with Ravi Shankar and Stephane Grappelli among others, but this collaboration Wilhelm Kempff is as solid as Beethoven gets.
For accuracy and innovation, we salute this fantastic recording of the complete symphonies by Emmanuel Krivine and La Chambre Philharmonique. Our resident Beethoven expert John Suchet had the following to say about it: "It's a different, stripped-down sound for the symphonies that Beethoven himself would have recognised."
Alfred Brendel has recorded so many Beethoven works over the years that it's difficult to select just one. In fact, he recorded all of the piano concertos more than once too, but this 1976 version (link below) of the Emperor with Bernard Haitink conducing was the first.
These scintillating historical recordings are fascinating accounts of some of Beethoven's most interesting string quartets. The quartet ramps up the Russian influence (Beethoven's commissioner was a member of the Russian nobility), but still manages to eke out maximum emotion in the slower movements.
Aside from the fifth symphony, Beethoven openings don't get much bigger than this. Whether you're Wilhelm Furtwängler with your super-slow intro or stately and quiet like Christian Thielemann, conductors have a hard time with this one. Richard Chailly, however, rattles through it and sounds like he's having an absolute ball - look out for the explosive ending.
Artur Schnabel was the first pianist to record the complete piano sonatas, so since 1935 his versions have been seen as fairly definitive. Interpretations come and go, but they're all influenced by the professionalism and prowess of Schnabel.
Martha Argerich has a reputation for being an unpredictable personality, but one thing you can bank on is her reading of Beethoven's third piano concerto. With some gentle reigning from conductor Claudio Abbado, she gets the best out of the second movement especially.
To tackle all nine Beethoven Symphonies is something of a rite of passage for any conductor worth their salt. They've all done it, but few match Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic for enthusiasm and consistency.
With three soloists of this high calibre sharing the stage in one concert is quite something, but to have them playing on the same work is fairly unheard of. Couple them with Herbert Von Karajan and what have you got? A flawlessly intuitive recording, especially on the heart-rending second movement.
This is Beethoven's most famous piano sonata, which makes interpretation a very tricky business for the performer. No matter how you do it, someone will have done it that way before. Well, for HJ Lim, keeping it fresh has proved surprisingly easy - listen to how she rolls straight through the opening where others tend to ham it up.