Touch Press has followed their rich and satisfying Orchestra app, which showcased individual instruments, musicians, and the London Philharmonia’s conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, with this tribute to Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, considered by many to be one of the composer’s greatest works. A trailer of the app is available as well as a look behind the scenes with Guy Jones, an associate producer at Touch Press.
When considering Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Touch Press / Deutsche Grammopon), you’ll be tempted to go for the free app, but don’t do it; it’s the best kind of worst tease. Instead, purchase the full version, but you’ll need to decide: phone app ($7.99) or iPad app ($13.99)? Don’t skimp. The phone app has all the music of the iPad app, but lacks the commentaries of the experts. Your last consideration will be the listening options; the app states, “BEST WITH HEADPHONES.” Trust me, it is.
The home page of Beethoven’s 9th streams the Ode to Joy, and although you sense you will be humming it all night, you can’t resist. You have to experience it, much like the Small World ride at Disney. Once you begin to explore the symphony, you won’t want to stop. There are four versions and four conductors: Ferenc Fricsay, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, and Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Each one can be listened to while reading either the full synchronized score or a replica of Beethoven’s handwritten score (amazing), or watching an electric pin-light version that lights up the corresponding parts of the orchestral chart as various instruments come in and out. Bernstein’s version also includes a video of him conducting the symphony with the Wiener Philharmoniker in 1979.
During all the performances, a phrase-by-phrase analysis by David Owen Norris explains the music, in an endearing, informal manner. For example, midway through the first movement he writes, “Those opening sparks of rhythm have caught fire, and in their light we can see we’re back at the beginning….” Norris also wrote the historical analysis that examines Beethoven’s life, including his descent into deafness and the genesis of the Ninth Symphony.
Finally (and really, this shouldn’t come last) are the “Insights” by some of the world’s finest musicians and scholars. Don’t skip this section. Start with Suzy Klein, who makes the Ninth Symphony accessible and drops some humor along the way. Conductor Gustavo Dudamel helps explain Beethoven as a universal symbol of music, and pianist Alice Sara Ott shares why the Ode to Joy is the basis of hope, optimism, and human rights, and how music is a unique language that can unite people with idealism. Without hesitation, an app for all collections.−Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, Newburgh, NY
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