25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Choral Fantasy

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The Choral Fantasy is a crazy, mixed-up and yet fascinating work, with its lengthy solo piano introduction, its quirky yet sophisticated orchestral writing and its choral finale that served as a warm-up for the last movement of the Ninth Symphony. Typically it’s attached to a recording of one of the composer’s concertos, as is the case in this pairing with the Third Piano Concerto.

The concertos played a central role in Rudolf Serkin’s repertoire for at least half a century. His early 1980s cycle with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra finds him in particularly great form. Serkin is his usual thoughtful, majestic self in the Choral Fantasy and he’s complemented by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and a fine array of vocal soloists.

One might quibble about a few details of the performance, but the sound is first-rate, catching the ambiance of Symphony Hall and even the soloist humming along with his piano.

What’s your favorite version of the Choral Fantasy? Tell us and discuss our choices below.

Beethoven: Choral Fantasy
Boston Symphony Orchestra; Rudolf Serkin, piano
Seiji Ozawa, Julien Robbins, John Olvier, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Lili Chookasian, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mary Burgess, Faye Robinson, Kenneth Riegel
Telarc
Available at Arkivmusic.com