This recording of the towering Ninth is a revelation--not in spite of, but BECAUSE of Leinsdorf's ability to get out of the way and let Beethoven be heard! I'm sick to death of having overzealous conductors drop anvils on my head to demonstrate the effects of their supposedly "inspired" deep thoughts on this work. If there's a composer whose work doesn't require the conductor to turn to the listener as if to say, "See? This part right here is significant!", it's Beethoven. Leinsdorf neither pushes nor drags; he may not be trying to provide the greatest "depth", but he also isn't boring us to death--a trend that started with Otto Klemperer, a well-documented manic depressive who made far too many recordings during his depressive periods and far too few during his manic periods. I like the way Leinsdorf varies the dynamics in the cantabile passages in the second movement, which helps it move, and the tympani are FOR ONCE not suppressed! He keeps the third movement moving (if there's one thing I hate, it's passing out and waking up to find the third movement is STILL going on like a bad day at work). And then there's the finale, where Sherrill Milnes and Placido Domingo blend like chocolate and darker chocolate (which they would do for next two decades), both because of the sounds they make and their incredible skill at ensemble. Their dark tones and careful shading cover the passages where some awful, discordant sounds often emerge when the soprano is suddenly exposed or the principals are scaling in different directions--painful if you have a rather dry, sharp-toned tenor and a too-dark mezzo coupled with a wooly basso and a screechy soprano. This is a very well matched, blended, highly skilled ensemble of principal singers who for once don't sound like they met up ten minutes before the recording--the best sung Ninth you're likely to hear. I've heard too many versions where the singers are singing well but sound like they are on different planets.
I don't know what another reviewer was getting at in saying Milnes is not a good enough vocal actor to put Schoenberg's Warsaw piece over. It's not an operatic role nor a standard accompanied narration, it's a cantata-like sprechstimme (speech-singing) piece meant to dramatize terrible events that are actually depicted by the music. "Acting" it adds little value for a lot of effort, and whatever there is to be added that supposedly isn't provided by Milnes is not something I'd search the catalog for to in the hope of acquiring a mythical better version of this short piece. It's not like Sherrill Milnes was muttering to himself in this version!
The remastering has excellent sound and adds a little boom to what was already a well recorded and spacious LP issue; the previous CD issue was a bit more remote in sound and cut the Schoenberg.