Beethoven's 9th Symphony (free plus in-app purchases) is an epic iPad app that lets you explore one of the greatest symphonies ever written in a unique, compelling way. Classical music lovers will definitely want to check it out.
Beethoven's 9th Symphony uses every trick in the multimedia tool box. For starters, you can listen to 4 different performances of the work, taken from the well-known DGG catalog. As you listen, follow along with the the score in real time. The original manuscript displays each page as the music plays but with modern notation.
An interesting feature called the "BeatMap" offers an overhead view of the orchestra, complete with symbols of the various instruments that glow as they are played.
The app also features several interviews, both contemporary and historic, with notable people like Leonard Bernstein and Gustavo Dudamel.
The four included performances date from 1962, with the most recent from 1992 played with period instruments. The Leonard Bernstein 1979 recording contains video of the performance, that you can watch full screen. It's interesting to compare the 4 concerts, and you can instantly switch between them, hearing how recording technology has advanced, and how performances differ. Having the four concerts in sync for comparison is unique and valuable.
This app is a great experience for adults and young musicians. I can't think of a better way to share this musical treasure in such depth.
On to some negatives. The app does not directly support AirPlay, which is a mistake. You can certainly listen on headphones, but one should be able to hear this on a nice sound system. You can force AirPlay output with video mirroring by double-clicking the Home button and using the icon bar AirPlay tool, but the sound output stutters at times, and the video struggles to remain in sync.
Beethoven's 9th Symphony is not cheap. While you can download the app for free, you only get 2 minutes of each movement. A $13.99 in-app purchase unlocks the complete works. While the app is relatively expensive, it's less than the price of the 4 performances on separate CDs, and you wouldn't get the videos, the interviews, or the full scores. Even if you opt for the free version, you download everything, and this is a large app at 1.53 GB. I had to do some housecleaning before I could run it.
I previously took a look at the first offering in this series, called The Orchestra. It was also excellent, but the Beethoven is superior because it goes into great depth on a single work.
If you're interested in classical music, I think this is an app you will return to again and again. There's a lot of information, as well as the visual and sonic joys.
I'd also suggest you take a look at some parallel and less expensive apps if Beethoven appeals to you. Beethoven Symphonies ($1.99) has some nice selctions and performances. I also liked the free, ad-supported Beethoven Symphony Collection which also includes the scores to view.
Beethoven's 9th Symphony requires an iPad and iOS 6.