20 of the best Beethoven recordings of all time

We name the albums and recordings any Beethoven lover needs to add to their collection


1) For the symphonies, go for Karajan’s refined 1962 version with the Berlin Phil (DG).


2) Otherwise, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe offer freshness (Warner).

3) Carlos Kleiber and the Vienna Phil are untouchable in Nos 5 & 7 (DG).

4) For the piano concertos, plump for Murray Perahia and the Concertgebouw/Haitink (Sony).

5) Another great recording is Brendel with Vienna Phil/Rattle (Warner).

6) Artur Schnabel occupies the complete piano sonatas top spot. (Harmonia Mundi).

7) Alongside Stephen Kovacevich (Warner).

8) Andreas Staier is superb in the Diabellis (Harmonia Mundi).

9) Alfred Brendel rules the bagatelles (Decca).

10) Quartetto Italiano (Decca) is a safe bet for the string quartets.

11) As is the Takács Quartet (Decca).

12) We’d take Isabelle Faust and the Orchestra Mozart under Abbado for the Violin Concerto (Harmonia Mundi).

13) Or Itzhak Perlman and the Philharmonia under Guilini for the Violin Concerto (Warner).

14) In the violin sonatas, Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien reign (Hyperion).

15) For the Triple Concerto, who could resist David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sviatoslav Richter with the Berlin Phil/Karajan (Warner)?

16) Marvel at Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zucherman and Jacqueline du Pré in the piano trios (Warner).

17) Go modern with Steven Isserlis and Robert Levin’s cello sonatas (Hyperion).

18) Or Trio Zimmermann’s string trios (BIS).

19) For the Missa solemnis, let’s hear it for the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, Concentus Musicus Wien and Harnoncourt (Sony).


20) Nina Stemme, Jonas Kaufmann, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Abbado offer a thrilling Fidelio (Decca).