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Classical Notes

Beethoven for iPad or iPhone

Posted at 2:13 PM on May 21, 2013 by Emily Reese

Ludwig van Beethoven

Certainly one of the most addicting apps I've downloaded in quite some time, Touch Press's "Beethoven's 9th Symphony" will make you fall in love with Beethoven all over again.

Commissioned by pianist David Owen Norris, the app features four recordings of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, all from the Deutsche Grammophon label. You can hear the Berlin Philharmonic in 1958 led by Ferenc Fricsay's, or Herbert von Karajan's 1962 one with the same orchestra. Leonard Bernstein's 1979 recording with the Vienna Philharmonic includes video of the performance, and John Eliot Gardiner rounds out the four with the recording made in 1992 by the Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra.

When you press play, you have some options. You can watch the score scroll by in real time, and touch a different conductor's name to hear their version. The switch happens instantly (a little shocking since Gardiner's orchestra is tuned a half-step lower), making comparisons easy.

If you don't read music well, but appreciate the idea of it being presented similarly to a score, you can instead listen to the recordings while viewing a simplified score. Rather than notes and rhythms, the music appears as colored blocks.

But the most enlightening way to hear and watch the music is the BeatMap option, which grants a color to an instrument, plops all those colored dots into the shape of an orchestra, and the dots blink each time that section or instrument plays during the Symphony.

I don't have an iPad, only an iPhone, so I can't enjoy all the features of the app. The iPad app includes more than 90 minutes of interview clips from musicians like Gustavo Dudamel and Gardiner, as well as a book about the symphony written by Norris.

The app is what's called 'free-to-play', which means the app is free, but the free version only allows access to the 2nd movement. It costs $7.99 to unlock all features of the app.