It's exceptionally rare that one comes across a truly mind-boggling rendition of an extremely popular classical piece; so many recordings have been made that virtually every creative avenue has been explored. Yet, that's exactly what you get with this CD, a performance for the ages, an interpretive tour de force.
Wilhelm Furtwangler was known as a great conductor of Beethoven's symphonic repertoire, indeed, he was a musician with a powerful gift for the compositions of the German masters. The maestro recorded the ninth symphony many times, in the process, he gave us two of the greatest interpretations of that astounding work, this being the more inspired of the duo.
Upon listening to this CD for the first time, you'll immediately notice that the sound quality is horrendous; hiss, bad microphone placement, and sounds from the audience that rival that of the orchestra. But stick with it! In time, the sonic inferiorities of the recording melt away to unveil a performance of ethereal inspiration. You will not believe the supercharged finale! Every time that I listen to this performance, I'm left in awe; it's THAT unique!
I own nine recordings of this most well-known opus, among them are some really exceptional efforts, but this Music & Arts CD is the most cherished. Fritz Reiner's version of the symphony is, rightfully, a classic, Solti's 1972 performance is electric, Muti's rendition is excellent, but Furtwangler's 1942 effort stands at the summit, outdoing even his 1951 offering.
A neophyte should probably begin with Reiner's beautiful account, and perhaps listen to Solti's version next. I would NOT recommend this CD to a beginning collector; the sound is too primitive and the performance is too atypical. But those familiar with Beethoven's final symphony will consider it the proverbial cream of the crop. I pull this puppy out like I would a bottle of my finest Brandy, only when I want a taste of the sublime.