This 2005 performance of Beethoven's 9th symphony I believe should be considered the benchmark recording of this century so far.
The London Symphony Orchestra using their own LSO Live label has combined digital recording methods with a `Live' venue (London's Barbican) to produce an absolutely stunning version of Beethoven's final symphony.
It's clear from the start of the first movement that this recording is a good one - no evidence of audience noise from a supposed `live' recording - and by the time the Ode to Joy fourth movement arrives almost 45 minutes later the anticipation is of a big finale.
This 25 minute finale is sheer brilliance, for me this is the most perfectly performed and exciting recording of the ninth symphony I have ever heard. The interaction between the four soloists (Twyla Robinson, Karen Cargill, John Mc Master, Gerald Finley) the choir (London Symphony) and orchestra gives a unified performance which is so well balanced and executed that I can only sum up in one word.
With Beethoven there has to be a heroic journey through adversity,chaos and quiet to powerful Joy in brotherhood,companionship, nature and the universe - 3 movements before the great 4th movement choral setting. This performance visits all the points on the journey with a great sense of coherence welded together through the work of Bernard Haitink in this powerful vision. The brotherhood can be sensed in the great playing of the men and women of the London Symphony Orchestra and the inspired singing of the London Symphony Chorus and the soloists. This is the truly satisfying, 21st century account of this life-enhancing music. The tensions and relaxations build and develop throughout the work until the sensational outbursts from the choir in the last movement finale.
A few details about this CD - the timpanist is incredibly dynamic, the Janissary music in the last movement is so tinkling happy, there is a neat informative accompanying booklet, the sound quality of this live recording is sensational, worth putting aside 70 minutes for. Joy and enjoy.