- Symphony No. 9 in D minor ("Choral"), Op. 125
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Recordings of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9 in D minor" number in the hundreds, and there's little reason to get excited about yet another, unless it's a rendition by Franz Welser-Möst, a dynamic Austrian conductor who can be relied on to do something interesting with this masterpiece. Sure enough, this live version with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus is well worth hearing for the controlled excitement of the performance and the direct power of the music, and Welser-Möst's interpretation is remarkable for its steady build-up to an "Ode to Joy" that impresses through direct expression and emotional urgency. Along the way, one may notice that the sound is a little heavy and out of focus, and the orchestra's tone colors aren't as sharp as some other contemporary releases (for instance, the exceptionally sharp reproduction in Bernard Haitink's concert recording on LSO Live, which is stunning). But after a little accommodation for this minor audio problem, it's easy to follow the playing and feel the energy that moves the music forward on its inevitable trajectory to the Finale, which features a capable vocal quartet -- soprano Measha Brueggergosman, mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, tenor Frank Lopardo, and bass René Pape -- and a chorus that nearly raises the roof with its ecstatic declarations. So, apart from the slightly deficient sound and a few ragged edges in the last movement, this performance is definitely worth checking out, even if it is not the last word on this symphony.